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LIBRARY 

OF  THE 

University  of  California. 


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DEAD    AUTHORS 


LETTERS 


TO 


DEAD     AUTHORS 


BY 


ANDREW    LANG 


^^   OF  THE 

KITBHSIT 


9". 


LONDON 
LONGMANS,     GREEN,     AND     CO. 

1886 


^//    rights    reserved 


MS' so 


/ 


fV)/MAj 


ro 
MISS     THACKERAY 

THESE    KXER«:iSKS 

IN      THE     ART     OF      DIPPING 

ARK    DEDICATED 


t5SL^ 


PREFACE, 


Sixteen  of  these  Letters,  which  were 
written  at  the  suggestion  of  the  Editor 
of  the  *  St.  James's  Gazette,'  appeared 
in  that  journal,  from  which  they  are 
now  reprinted,  by  the  Editor's  kind  per- 
mission. They  have  been  somewhat 
emended,  and  a  few  additions  have  been 
made.  The  Letters  to  Horace,  Byron, 
Isaak  Walton,  Chapelain,  Ronsard,  and 
Theocritus  have  not  been  published 
before. 

The  gem  on  the  title-page,  now  en- 
graved for  the  first  time,  is  a  red  cor- 
nelian in  the  British  Museum,  probably 


viii  PREFACE 

Graeco- Roman,  and  treated  in  an  archa- 
istic  style.  It  represents  Hermes  Psycha- 
gogos,  with  a  Soul,  and  has  some  like- 
ness to  the  Baptism  of  Our  Lord,  as 
usually  shown  in  art.  Perhaps  it  may 
be  post-Christian.  The  gem  was  se- 
lected by  Mr.  A.  S.  Murray. 

It  is,  perhaps,  superfluous  to  add 
that  some  of  the  Letters  are  written 
rather  to  suit  the  Correspondent  than 
to  express  the  writer's  own  taste  or 
opinions.  The  Epistle  to  Lord  Byron, 
especially,  is  '  writ  in  a  manner  which 
is  my  aversion.' 


>^^  ■     ..  ^  \-; 


CONtENTiS:^ 


I.  TO  W.    M.    THACKERAY          ...  I 

II.  TO   CHARLES   DICKENS     .          ..       *   •- *  •  lO 

7 

III.  TO    PIERRE   DE    RONSARD      •     A   •            •  22 

IV.  TO    HERODCp-tJS 34 

V.  EPISTLE   TO   MR.    ALEXANDER   POPE      .  46 

VI.  TO   LUCIAN   OF   SAMOSATA        .            •       •  55 

VII.  TO    MAITRE    FRAN9OYS    RABELAIS            .  66 

VIII,  TO   JANE   AUSTEN 75 

»    IX.  TO    MASTER    ISAAK  WALTON           .            .  86 

.  X,  TO    M.    CHAPELAIN            .             .            .       .  98 

XL  TO    SIR  JOHN    MAUNDEVILI.E,    KT.          .  IIO 

XII.  TO   ALEXANDRE    DUMAS.            .            .       .  II9 

XIII.  TO   THEOCRITUS            ....  I30 

XIV,  TO -EDGAR    ALLAN    I'OE    .            .            .       .  I40 


X  CONTENTS 

XV.  TO   SIR   WALTER   SCOTT,    BART.     .  .    I52 

XVI.  TO    EUSEBIUS   OF   Ci«:SAREA       .  .      .    162 

XVII.  TO   PERCY    BYSSHE   SHELLEY  .  -    ^IZ^ 

XVIII.  TO   MONSIEUR    DE   MOLlfeRE,  VALET  DE 

CHAMBRE    DU    ROI        .  .  .       .     184 

XIX.  TO   ROBERT   BURNS         ....    195 

♦     XX.  TO   LORD   BYRON 205 

XXI.  TO   OMAR   KHAYYAM     .  .  .  .    2l6 

►  XXII.  TO   Q.    HORATIUS   FLACCUS        .  .      .    223 


ui^IVBRSITY; 
LETTERS 

TO 

DEAD    AUTHORS. 


I. 

To  W.  M.  Thackeray. 

Sir, — There  are  many  things  that 
stand  in  the  way  of  the  critic  when  he 
has  a  mind  to  praise  the  living.  He  may 
dread  the  charge  of  writing  rather  to  vex 
a  rival  than  to  exalt  the  subject  of  his 
applause.  He  shuns  the  appearance  of 
seeking  the  favour  of  the  famous,  and 
would  not  willingly  be  regarded  as  one 
of  the  many  parasites  who  now  advertise 
each  movement  and  action  of  contempo- 
rary genius.  *  Such  and  such  men  of 
letters  are  passing  their  summer  hohdays 
in  the  Val  d'Aosta,'  or   the  Mountains 

B 


2    LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

of  the  Moon,  or  the  Suliman  Range,  as 
it  may  happen.  So  reports  our  Hterary 
'  Court  Circular,'  and  all  our  Precieuses 
read  the  tidings  with  enthusiasm.  Lastly, 
if  the  critic  be  quite  new  to  the  world  of 
letters,  he  may  superfluously  fear  to  vex 
a  poet  or  a  novelist  by  the  abundance  of 
his  eulogy.  No  such  doubts  perplex  us 
when,  with  all  our  hearts,  we  would  com- 
mend the  departed  ;  for  they  have  passed 
almost  beyond  the  reach  even  of  envy  ; 
and  to  those  pale  cheeks  of  theirs  no 
commendation  can  bring  the  red. 

You,  above  all  others,  were  and  re- 
main without  a  rival  in  your  many-sided 
excellence,  and  praise  of  you  strikes  at 
none  of  those  who  have  survived  your 
day.  The  increase  of  time  only  mellows 
your  renown,  and  each  year  that  passes 
and  brings  you  no  successor  does  but 
sharpen  the  keenness  of  our  sense  of  loss  . 
In  what  other  novelist,  since  Scott  was 
worn  down  by  the  burden  of  a  forlorn 
endeavour,  and  died  for  honour's  sake, 
has  the  world  found  so  many  of  the  fair- 


THACKERAY  3 

est  gifts  combined  ?  If  we  may  not  call 
you  a  poet  (for  the  first  of  English  writers 
of  light  verse  did  not  seek  that  crown), 
who  that  was  less  than  a  poet  ever  saw 
life  with  a  glance  so  keen  as  yours,  so 
steady,  and  so  sane  ?  Your  pathos  was 
never  cheap,  your  laughter  never  forced  ; 
your  sigh  was  never  the  pulpit  trick  of 
the  preacher.  Your  funny  people — your 
Costigans  and  Fokers — were  not  mere 
characters  of  trick  and  catch-word,  were 
not  empty  comic  masks.  Behind  each 
the  human  heart  was  beating  ;  and  ever 
and  again  we  were  allowed  to  see  the 
features  of  the  man. 

Thus  fiction  in  your  hands  was  not 
simply  a  profession,  like  another,  but  a 
constant  reflection  of  the  whole  surface 
of  life  :  a  repeated  echo  of  its  laughter 
and  its  complaint.  Others  have  written, 
and  not  written  badly,  with  the  stolid 
professional  regularity  of  the  clerk  at  his 
desk  ;  you,  like  the  Scholar  Gipsy,  might 
have  said  that  '  it  needs  heaven-sent  mo- 
ments for  this  skill'    There  are,  it  will  not 

B  2 


4  LETTERS   TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 

surprise  you,  some  honourable  women 
and  a  few  men  who  call  you  a  cj'nic  ; 
who  speak  of  'the  withered  world  of 
Thackerayan  satire  ; '  who  think  your 
eyes  were  ever  turned  to  the  sordid  as- 
pects of  life — to  the  mother-in-law  who 
threatens  to  '  take  away  her  silver  bread- 
basket ; '  to  the  intriguer,  the  sneak,  the 
termagant ;  to  the  Beckys,  and  Barnes 
Newcomes,  and  Mrs.  Mackenzies  of  this 
world.  The  quarrel  of  these  sentimen- 
talists is  really  with  life,  not  with  you  ; 
they  might  as  wisely  blame  Monsieur 
Buffon  because  there  are  snakes  in  his 
Natural  History.  Had  you  not  impaled 
certain  noxious  human  insects,  you 
would  have  better  pleased  Mr.  Ruskin  ; 
had  you  confined  yourself  to  such  per- 
formances, you  would  have  been  more 
dear  to  the  Neo-Balzacian  school  in 
fiction. 

You  are  accused  of  never  having 
drawn  a  good  woman  who  was  not  a  doll, 
but  the  ladies  that  bring  this  charge  sel- 
dom remind  us  either  of  Lady  Castle- 


THACKERAY  5 

wood  or  of  Theo  or  Hetty  Lambert. 
The  best  women  can  pardon  you  Becky 
Sharp  and  Blanche  Amory  ;  they  find 
it  harder  to  forgive  you  Emmy  Sedley 
and  Helen  Pendennis.  Yet  what  man 
does  not  know  in  his  heart  that  the  best 
women — God  bless  them — lean,  in  their 
characters,  either  to  the  sweet  passiveness 
of  Emmy  or  to  the  sensitive  and  jealous 
affections  of  Helen  ?  'Tis  Heaven,  not 
you,  that  made  them  so  ;  and  they  are 
easily  pardoned,  both  for  being  a  very 
little  lower  than  the  angels  and  for  their 
gentle  ambition  to  be  painted,  as  by 
Guido  or  Guercino,  with  wings  and  harps 
and  haloes.  So  ladies  have  occasionally 
seen  their  own  faces  in  the  glass  of  fancy, 
and,  thus  inspired,  have  drawn  Romola 
and  Consuelo.  Yet  when  these  fair  ideal- 
ists, Mdme.  Sand  and  George  Eliot, 
designed  Rosamund  Vincy  and  Horace, 
was  there  not  a  spice  of  malice  in  the 
portraits  which  we  miss  in  your  least 
favourable  studies  } 

That   the   creator  of  Colonel  New- 


6    LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

come  and  of  Henry  Esmond  was  a 
snarling  cynic  ;  that  he  who  designed 
Rachel  Esmond  could  not  draw  a  good 
woman  :  these  are  the  chief  charges  (all 
indifferent  now  to  you,  who  were  once 
so  sensitive)  that  your  admirers  have  to 
contend  against.  A  French  critic,  M. 
Taine,  also  protests  that  you  do  preach 
too  much.  Did  any  author  but  yourself 
so  frequently  break  the  thread  (seldom 
a  strong  thread)  of  his  plot  to  converse 
with  his  reader  and  moralise  his  tale,  we 
also  might  be  offended.  But  who  that 
loves  Montaigne  and  Pascal,  who  that 
likes  the  wise  trifling  of  the  one  and  can 
bear  with  the  melancholy  of  the  other, 
but  prefers  your  preaching  to  another's 
playing ! 

Your  thoughts  come  in,  like  the 
intervention  of  the  Greek  Chorus,  as  an 
ornament  and  source  of  fresh  delight. 
Like  the  songs  of  the  Chorus,  they  bid 
us  pause  a  moment  over  the  wider  laws 
and  actions  of  human  fate  and  human 
life,  and  we  turn  from  your  persons  to 


THACKERAY  7 

yourself,  and  again  from  yourself  to  your 
persons,  as  from  the  odes  of  Sophocles 
or  Aristophanes  to  the  action  of  their 
characters  on  the  stage.  Nor,  to  my 
taste,  does  the  mere  music  and  melan- 
choly dignity  of  your  style  in  these 
passages  of  meditation  fall  far  below  the 
highest  efforts  of  poetry.  I  remember 
that  scene  where  Clive,  at  Barnes  New- 
come's  Lecture  on  the  Poetry  of  the  Af- 
fections, sees  Ethel  who  is  lost  to  him. 
'And  the  past  and  its  dear  histories,  and 
youth  and  its  hopes  and  passions,  and 
tones  and  looks  for  ever  echoing  in  the 
heart  and  present  in  the  memory — these, 
no  doubt,  poor  Clive  saw  and  heard  as 
he  looked  across  the  great  gulf  of  time, 
and  parting  and  grief,  and  beheld  the 
woman  he  had  loved  for  many  years.' 

For  ever  echoing  in  the  heart  and  pre- 
sent in  the  memory  :  who  has  not  heard 
these  tones,  who  does  not  hear  them  as 
he  turns  over  your  books  that,  for  so 
many  years,  have  been  his  companions 
and  comforters  ?     We  have  been  young 


8  LE ITERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

and  old,  we  have  been  sad  and  merry 
with  you,  we  have  listened  to  the  mid- 
night chimes  with  Pen  and  Warrington, 
have  stood  with  you  beside  the  death- 
bed, have  mourned  at  that  yet  more 
awful  funeral  of  lost  love,  and  with  you 
have  prayed  in  the  inmost  chapel  sacred 
to  our  old  and  immortal  affections,  a  leal 
souvenir  I  And  whenever  you  speak 
for  yourself,  and  speak  in  earnest,  how 
magical,  how  rare,  how  lonely  in  our 
literature  is  the  beauty  of  your  sentences ! 
*  I  can't  express  the  charm  of  them  '  (so 
you  write  of  George  Sand  ;  so  we  may 
write  of  you) :  '  they  seem  to  me  like 
the  sound  of  country  bells,  provoking 
I  don't  know  what  vein  of  music  and 
meditation,  and  falling  sweetly  and  sadly 
on  the  ear.'  Surely  that  style,  so  fresh, 
so  rich,  so  full  of  surprises — that  style 
which  stamps  as  classical  your  fragments 
of  slang,  and  perpetually  astonishes  and 
delights — would  alone  give  immortality 
to  an  author,  even  had  he  little  to  say. 
But  you,  with  your  whole  wide  world  of 


THACKERAY  g 

fops  and  fools,  of  good  women  and  brave 
men,  of  honest  absurdities  and  cheery  ad- 
venturers :  you  who  created  the  Steynes 
and  NewcomeSjthe  Beckys  and  Blanches, 
Captain  Costigan  and  F.  B.,  and  the 
Chevalier  Strong  —  all  that  host  of 
friends  imperishable — you  must  survive 
with  Shakespeare  and  Cervantes  in  the 
memory  and  affection  of  men. 


10        LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 


II. 

To  ChaiHes  Dickens. 

Sir, — It  has  been  said  that  every 
man  is  born  a  Platonist  or  an  Aristote- 
lian, though  the  enormous  majority  of 
us,  to  be  sure,  live  and  die  without  being 
conscious  of  any  invidious  philosophic 
partiality  whatever.  With  more  truth 
(though  that  does  not  imply  very  much) 
every  Englishman  who  reads  may  be 
said  to  be  a  partisan  of  yourself  or  of 
Mr.  Thackeray.  Why  should  there  be 
any  partisanship  in  the  matter ;  and 
why,  having  two  such  good  things  as 
your  novels  and  those  of  your  contem- 
porary, should  we  not  be  silently  happy 
in  the  possession  ?  Well,  men  are  made 
so,  and  must  needs  fight  and  argue 
over  their   tastes   in    enjoyment.      For 


DICKENS  II 

myself,  I  may  say  that  in  this  matter  I 
am  what  the  Americans  do  7iot  call  a 
'  Mugwump,'  what  English  politicians 
dub  a  'superior  person  ' — that  is,  I  take 
no  side,  and  attempt  to  enjoy  the  best 
of  both. 

It  must  be  owned  that  this  attitude 
is  sometimes  made  a  little  difficult  by 
the  vigour  of  your  special  devotees. 
They  have  ceased,  indeed,  thank 
Heaven  !  to  imitate  you  ;  and  even  in 
'  descriptive  articles '  the  touch  of  Mr. 
Gigadibs,  of  him  whom  '  we  almost  took 
for  the  true  Dickens,'  has  disappeared. 
The  young  lions  of  the  Press  no  longer 
mimic  your  less  admirable  mannerisms 
— do  not  strain  so  much  after  fantastic 
comparisons,  do  not  (in  your  manner 
and  Mr.  Carlyle's)  give  people  nick- 
names derived  from  their  teeth,  or  their 
complexion ;  and,  generally,  we  are 
spared  second-hand  copies  of  all  that  in 
your  style  was  least  to  be  commended. 
But,  though  improved  by  lapse  of  time 
in  this  respect,  your  devotees  still  put  on 


12        LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

little  conscious  airs  of  virtue,  robust 
manliness,  and  so  forth,  which  would 
have  irritated  you  very  much,  and  there 
survive  some  press  men  who  seem  to 
have  read  you  a  little  (especially  your 
later  works),  and  never  to  have  read 
anything  else.  Now  familiarity  with  the 
pages  of  '  Our  Mutual  Friend '  and 
'  Dombey  and  Son  '  does  not  precisely 
constitute  a  liberal  education,  and  the 
assumption  that  it  does  is  apt  (quite 
unreasonably)  to  prejudice  people  against 
the  greatest  comic  genius  of  modern 
times. 

On  the  other  hand,  Time  is  at  last 
beginning  to  sift  the  true  admirers  of 
Dickens  from  the  false.  Yours,  Sir,  in 
the  best  sense  of  the  word,  is  a  popular 
success,  a  popular  reputation.  For  ex- 
ample, I  know  that,  in  a  remote  and 
even  Pictish  part  of  this  kingdom,  a 
rural  household,  humble  and  under  the 
shadow  of  a  sorrow  inevitably  approach- 
ing, has  found  in  *  David  Copperfield ' 
oblivion  of  winter,  of  sorrow,  and  of  sick- 


DICKENS  13 

ness.  On  the  other  hand,  people  are 
now  picking  up  heart  to  say  that  '  they 
cannot  read  Dickens,'  and  that  they  par- 
ticularly detest  *  Pickwick.'  I  believe  it 
was  young  ladies  who  first  had  the  cour- 
age of  their  convictions  in  this  respect. 
*  Tout  sied  aux  belles,'  and  the  fair,  in 
the  confidence  of  youth,  often  venture  on 
remarkable  confessions.  In  your '  Natural 
History  of  Young  Ladies  '  I  do  not  re- 
member that  you  describe  the  Humorous 
Young  Lady.^  She  is  a  very  rare  bird 
indeed,  and  humour  generally  is  at  a 
deplorably  low  level  in  England. 

Hence  come  all  sorts  of  mischief, 
arisen  since  you  left  us ;  and  it  may 
be  said  that  inordinate  philanthropy, 
genteel  sympathy  with  Irish  murder 
and  arson,  Societies  for  Badgering  the 
Poor,  Esoteric  Buddhism,  and  a  score  of 
other  plagues,  including  what  was  once 
called   ^stheticism,   are   all,  primarily, 

'  I  am  informed  that  the  Natural  Histoiy  of 
Young  Ladies  is  attributed,  by  some  writers,  to 
another  philosopher,  the  author  of  The  Art  of  Pluck. 


14        LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

due  to  want  of  humour.  People  discuss, 
with  the  gravest  faces,  matters  which 
properly  should  only  be  stated  as  the 
wildest  paradoxes.  It  naturally  follows 
that,  in  a  period  almost  destitute  ol 
humour,  many  respectable  persons  '  can- 
not read  Dickens,'  and  are  not  ashamed 
to  glory  in  their  shame.  We  ought  not 
to  be  angry  with  others  for  their  mis- 
fortunes ;  and  yet  when  one  meets  the 
cretins  who  boast  that  they  cannot  read 
Dickens,  one  certainly  does  feel  much 
as  Mr.  Samuel  Weller  felt  when  he  en- 
countered Mr.  Job  Trotter. 

How  very  singular  has  been  the 
history  of  the  decline  of  humour!  Is 
there  any  profound  psychological  truth 
to  be  gathered  from  consideration  of 
the  fact  that  humour  has  gone  out  with 
cruelty  ?  A  hundred  years  ago,  eighty 
years  ago  — nay,  fifty  years  ago — we 
were  a  cruel  but  also  a  humorous 
people.  We  had  bull-baitings,  and 
badger-drawings,  and  hustings,  and 
prize-fights,  and    cock-fights ;  we   went 


DICKENS  15 

to  see  men  hanged  ;  the  pillory  and  the 
stocks  were  no  empty  '  terrors  unto  evil- 
doers,' for  there  was  commonly  a  male- 
factor occupying  each  of  these  insti- 
tutions. With  all  this  we  had  a  broad- 
blown  comic  sense.  We  had  Hogarth, 
and  Bunbury,  and  George  Cruikshank, 
and  Gilray  ;  we  had  Leech  and  Surtees, 
and  the  creator  of  Tittlebat  Titmouse ; 
we  had  the  Shepherd  of  the  *  Noctes,' 
and,  above  all,  we  ha.d  you. 

From  the  old  giants  of  English  fun 
— burly  persons  delighting  in  broad 
caricature,  in  decided  colours,  in  cockney 
jokes,  in  swashing  blows  at  the  more 
prominent  and  obvious  human  follies— 
from  these  you  derived  the  splendid 
high  spirits  and  unhesitating  mirth  of 
your  earlier  works.  Mr.  Squeers,  and 
Sam  Weller,  and  Mrs.  Gamp,  and  all 
the  Pickwickians,  and  Mr.  Dowler,  and 
John  Browdie — these  and  their  immortal 
companions  were  reared,  so  to  speak, 
on  the  beef  and  beer  of  that  naughty, 
fox-hunting,  badger-baiting  old  England, 


1 6   LETTERS    TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 

which  we  have  improved  out  of  exist- 
ence. And  these  characters,  assuredly, 
are  your  best ;  by  them,  though  stupid 
people  cannot  read  about  them,  you 
will  live  while  there  is  a  laugh  left 
among  us.  Perhaps  that  does  not 
assure  you  a  very  prolonged  existence, 
but  only  the  future  can  show. 

The  dismal  seriousness  of  the  time 
cannot,  let  us  hope,  last  for  ever  and  a 
day.  Honest  old  Laughter,  the  true 
luti7i  of  your  inspiration,  must  have  life 
left  in  him  yet,  and  cannot  die  ;  though 
it  is  true  that  the  taste  for  your  pathos, 
and  your  melodrama,  and  plots  con- 
structed after  your  favourite  fashion 
(*  Great  Expectations  '  and  the  *  Tale  of 
Two  Cities '  are  exceptions)  may  go  by 
and  never  be  regretted.  Were  people 
simpler,  or  only  less  clear-sighted,  as 
far  as  your  pathos  is  concerned,  a 
generation  ago?  Jeffrey,  the  hard- 
headed  shallow  critic,  who  declared 
that  Wordsworth  'would  never  do,' 
cried,  'wept   like   anything,'  over  your 


DICKENS  17 

Little  Nell.  One  still  laughs  as  heartily 
as  ever  with  Dick  Swiveller ;  but  who 
can  cry  over  Little  Nell  ? 

Ah,  Sir,  how  could  you— who  knew 
so  intimately,  who  remembered  so 
strangely  well  the  fancies,  the  dreams, 
the  sufferings  of  childhood — how  could 
you  *  wallow  naked  in  the  pathetic,'  and 
massacre  holocausts  of  the  Innocents  ? 
To  draw  tears  by  gloating  over  a  child's 
death-bed,  was  it  worthy  of  you  ?  Was 
it  the  kind  of  work  over  which  our 
hearts  should  melt?  I  confess  that 
Little  Nell  might  die  a  dozen  times, 
and  be  welcomed  by  whole  legions  of 
Angels,  and  I  (like  the  bereaved  fowl 
mentioned  by  Pet  Marjory)  would  re- 
main unmoved. 

She  was  more  than  usual  calm. 
She  did  not  give  a  single  dam, 

wrote  the  astonishing  child  who  diverted 
the  leisure  of  Scott.  Over  your  Little 
Nell  and  your  Little  Dombey  I  remain 
more  than    usual  calm  ;    and    probably 

C 


1 8        LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

SO  do  thousands  of  your  most  sincere 
admirers.  But  about  matter  of  this 
kind,  and  the  unsealing  of  the  fountains 
of  tears,  who  can  argue  ?  Where  is  taste  ? 
where  is  truth  ?  What  tears  are  '  manly, 
Sir,  manly,'  as  Fred  Bayham  has  it ;  and 
of  what  lamentations  ought  we  rather 
to  be  ashamed  ?  Stmt  lacrymce  rerum  ; 
one  has  been  moved  in  the  cell  where 
Socrates  tasted  the  hemlock ;  or  by 
the  river-banks  where  Syracusan  arrows 
slew  the  parched  Athenians  among  the 
mire  and  blood  ;  or,  in  fiction,  when 
Colonel  New  come  says  Adsum,  or  over 
the  diary  of  Clare  Doria  Forey,  or  where 
Aramis  laments,  with  strange  tears,  the 
death  of  Porthos.  But  over  Dombey 
(the  Son),  or  Little  Nell,  one  declines  to 
snivel. 

When  an  author  deliberately  sits 
down  and  says,  '  Now,  let  us  have  a 
good  cry,'  he  poisons  the  wells  of  sensi- 
bility and  chokes,  at  least  in  many 
breasts,  the  fountain  of  tears.  Out  of 
'  Dombey   and    Son '   there  is  little  we 


DICKENS  19 

care  to  remember  except  the  deathless 
Mr.  Toots  ;  just  as  we  forget  the  melo- 
dramatics  of  *  Martin  Chuzzlewit'  I 
have  read  in  that  book  a  score  of  times  ; 
I  never  see  it  but  I  revel  in  it — in 
Pecksniff,  and  Mrs.  Gamp,  and  the 
Americans.  But  what  the  plot  is  all 
about,  what  Jonas  did,  what  Montagu 
Tigg  had  to  make  in  the  matter,  what 
all  the  pictures  with  plenty  of  shading 
illustrate,  I  have  never  been  able  to 
comprehend.  In  the  same  way,  one  of 
your  most  thorough-going  admirers  has 
allowed  (in  the  licence  of  private  con- 
versation) that  '  Ralph  Nickleby  and 
Monk  are  too  steep ; '  and  probably  a 
cultivated  taste  will  always  find  them  a 
little  precipitous. 

'Too  steep:' — the  slang  expresses 
that  defect  of  an  ardent  genius,  carried 
above  itself,  and  out  of  the  air  we 
breathe,  both  in  its  grotesque  and  in  its 
gloomy  imaginations.  To  force  the 
note,  to  press  fantasy  too  hard,  to 
deepen  the  gloom  with  black  over  the 

c  2 


20        LETTERS   TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 

indigo,  that  was  the  failing  which  proved 
you  mortal.  To  take  an  instance  in 
little :  when  Pip  went  to  Mr.  Pumble- 
chook's,  the  boy  thought  the  seedsman 
'a  very  happy  man  to  have  so  many 
little  drawers  in  his  shop.'  The  reflection 
is  thoroughly  boyish  ;  but  then  you  add, 
'  I  wondered  whether  the  flower-seeds 
and  bulbs  ever  wanted  of  a  fine  day  to 
break  out  of  those  jails  and  bloom.' 
That  is  not  boyish  at  all ;  that  is  the 
hard-driven,  jaded  literary  fancy  at 
work. 

*  So  we  arraign  her ;  but  she,'  the 
Genius  of  Charles  Dickens,  how  brilliant, 
how  kindly,  how  beneficent  she  is !  dwell- 
ing by  a  fountain  of  laughter  imperish- 
able ;  though  there  is  something  of  an 
alien  salt  in  the  neighbouring  fountain 
of  tears.  How  poor  the  world  of  fancy 
would  be,  how  '  dispeopled  of  her 
dreams,'  if,  in  some  ruin  of  the  social 
system,  the  books  of  Dickens  were  lost ; 
and  if  The  Dodger,  and  Charley  Bates, 
and  Mr.  Crinkly  and  Miss  Squeers  and 


DICKENS  21 

Sam  Weller,  and  Mrs.  Gamp,  and  Dick 
Swiveller  were  to  perish,  or  to  vanish 
with  Menander's  men  and  women !  We 
cannot  think  of  our  world  without  them  ; 
and,  children  of  dreams  as  they  are,  they 
seem  more  essential  than  great  states- 
men, artists,  soldiers,  who  have  actually 
worn  flesh  and  blood,  ribbons  and 
orders,  gowns  and  uniforms.  May  we 
not  almost  welcome  '  Free  Education ' } 
for  every  Englishman  who  can  read, 
unless  he  be  an  Ass,  is  a  reader  the 
more  for  you. 

P.S. — Alas,  how  strangely  are  we 
tempered,  and  how  strong  is  the  national 
bias  !  I  have  been  saying  things  of  you 
that  I  would  not  hear  an  enemy  say. 
When  I  read,  in  the  criticism  of  an 
American  novelist,  about  your  '  hysteri- 
cal emotionality '  (for  he  writes  in  Ame- 
rican), and  your  '  waste  of  verbiage,'  I 
am  almost  tempted  to  deny  that  our 
Dickens  has  a  single  fault,  to  deem  you 
impeccable  ! 


22        LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 


III. 

To  Pierre  de  Ronsard 

(prince  of  poets). 

Master  and  Prince  of  Poets, — 
As  we  know  what  choice  thou  madest  of 
a  sepulchre  (a  choice  how  ill  fulfilled  by 
the  jealousy  of  Fate),  so  we  know  well 
the  manner  of  thy  chosen  immortality. 
In  the  Plains  Elysian,  among  the  heroes 
and  the  ladies  of  old  song,  there  was 
thy  Love  with  thee  to  enjoy  her  paradise 
in  an  eternal  spring. 

La  du  plaisant  Avril  la  saison  immortelle 

Sans  eschange  le  stcii, 
La  terre  sans  labetir,  de  sa  grasse  mamelle, 

Toute  chose  y  produit ; 
D^enbas  la  troupe  sainte  atitrefois  amotireuse. 

Nous  honorant  stir  tous, 
Viendra  nous  saltier,  s''estimant  bien-heureuse 

De  s'accointer  de  nous. 


PIERRE   DE   RONSARD  23 

There  thou  dwellest,  with  the  learned 
lovers  of  old  days,  with  Belleau,  and  Du 
Bellay,  and  BaKf,  and  the  flower  of  the 
maidens  of  Anjou.  Surely  no  rumour 
reaches  thee,  in  that  happy  place  of 
reconciled  affections,  no  rumour  of  the 
rudeness  of  Time,  the  despite  of  men, 
and  the  change  which  stole  from  thy 
locks,  so  early  grey,  the  crown  of  laurels 
and  of  thine  own  roses.  -  How  different 
from  thy  choice  of  a  sepulchre  have  been 
the  fortunes  of  thy  tomb  ! 

I  will  that  none  should  break 
The  marble  for  my  sake, 
Wishful  to  make  more  fair 
My  sepulchre  ! 

So  didst  thou  sing,  or  so  thy  sweet 
numbers  run  in  my  rude  English. 
Wearied  of  Courts  and  of  priories,  thou 
didst  desire  a  grave  beside  thine  own 
Loire,  not  remote  from 

The  caves,  the  founts  that  fall 
From  the  high  mountain  wall, 
That  fall  and  flash  and  fleet, 
With  silver  feet. 


24        LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Only  a  laurel  tree 
Shall  guard  the  grave  of  me  ; 
Only  Apollo's  bough 
Shall  shade  me  now  ! 

Far  other  has  been  thy  sepulchre :  not 
in  the  free  air,  among  the  field  flowers, 
but  in  thy  priory  of  Saint  Cosme,  with 
marble  for  a  monument,  and  no  green 
grass  to  cover  thee.  Restless  wert  thou 
in  thy  life  ;  thy  dust  was  not  to  be  restful 
in  thy  death.  The  Huguenots,  ces  noti- 
veaux  Chretiens  qui  la  France  ont pillee^ 
destroyed  thy  tomb,  and  the  warning  of 
the  later  monument, 

ABI,    NEFASTE,    QUAM    CALCAS    HUMUM   SACRA   EST, 

has**  not  scared  away  malicious  men. 
The  storm  that  passed  over  France  a 
hundred  years  ago,  more  terrible  than 
the  religious  wars  that  thou  didst  weep 
for,  has  swept  the  column  from  the 
tomb.  The  marble  was  broken  by  vio- 
lent hands,  and  the  shattered  sepulchre 
of  the  Prince  of  Poets  gained  a  dusty 
hospitality  from  the  museum  of  a  coun- 


PIERRE  DE   RONSARD  25 

try  town.  Better  had  been  the  laurel 
of  thy  desire,  the  creeping  vine,  and  the 
ivy  tree. 

Scarce  more  fortunate,  for  long,  than 
thy  monument  was  thy  memory.  Thou 
hast  not  encountered.  Master,  in  the 
Paradise  of  Poets,  Messieurs  Malherbe, 
De  Balzac,  and  Boileau — Boileau  who 
spoke  of  thee  as  Ce  poete  orgueilleux 
trebuche  de  si  haut ! 

These  gallant  gentlemen,  I  make  no 
doubt,  are  happy  after  their  own  fashion, 
backbiting  each  other  and  thee  in  the 
Paradise  of  Critics.  In  their  time  they 
wrought  thee  much  evil,  grumbling 
that  thou  wrotest  in  Greek  and  Latin 
(of  which  tongues  certain  of  them  had 
but  little  skill),  and  blaming  thy  many 
lyric  melodies  and  the  free  flow  of  thy 
lines.  What  said  M.  de  Balzac  to  M. 
Chapelain  }  '  M.  de  Malherbe,  M.  de 
Grasse,  and  yourself  must  be  very  little 
poets,  if  Ronsard  'be  a  great  one.'  Time 
has  brought  in  his  revenges,  and  Mes- 
sieurs Chapelain  and  De  Grasse  are  as 


26        LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

well  forgotten  as  thou  art  well  remem- 
bered. Men  could  not  always  be  deaf 
to  thy  sweet  old  songs,  nor  blind  to 
the  beauty  of  thy  roses  and  thy  loves. 
When  they  took  the  wax  out  of  their 
ears  that  M.  Boileau  had  given  them 
lest  they  should  hear  the  singing  of  thy 
Sirens,  then  they  were  deaf  no  longer, 
then  they  heard  the  old  deaf  poet  sing- 
ing and  made  answer  to  his  lays.  Hast 
thou  not  heard  these  sounds  }  have  they 
not  reached  thee,  the  voices  and  the 
lyres  of  Theophile  Gautier  and  Alfred 
de  Musset  ?  Methinks  thou  hast  marked 
them,  and  been  glad  that  the  old  notes 
were  ringing  again  and  the  old  French 
lyric  measures  tripping  to  thine  ancient 
harmonies,  echoing  and  replying  to  the 
Muses  of  Horace  and  Catullus.  Re- 
turning to  Nature,  poets  returned  to 
thee.  Thy  monument  has  perished,  but 
not  thy  music,  and  the  Prince  of  Poets 
has  returned  to  his  own  again  in  a 
glorious  Restoration. 

Through  the  dust  and  smoke  of  ages. 


PIERRE  DE  RONSARD  27 

and  through  the  centuries  of  wars  we 
strain  our  eyes  and  try  to  gain  a  glimpse 
of  thee,  Master,  in  thy  good  days,  when 
the  Muses  walked  with  thee.  We  seem 
to  mark  thee  wandering  silent  through 
some  little  village,  or  dreaming  in  the 
woods,  or  loitering  among  thy  lonely 
places,  or  in  gardens  where  the  roses 
blossom  among  wilder  flowers,  or  on 
river  banks  where  the  whispering  pop- 
lars and  sighing  reeds  make  answer  to 
the  murmur  of  the  waters.  Such  a 
picture  hast  thou  drawn  of  thyself  in  the 
summer  afternoons. 

Je  m'en  vais  pourmener  tantost  parmy  la  plaine, 
Tantost  en  un  village,  et  tantost  en  un  bois, 
Et  tantost  par  les  lieux  solitaires  et  cois. 
J'aime  fort  les  jardins  qui  sentent  le  sauvage, 
J'aime  le  flot  de  I'eau  qui  gazouille  au  rivage. 

Still,  methinks,  there  was  a  book  in  the 
hand  of  the  grave  and  learned  poet ; 
still  thou  wouldst  carry  thy  Horace, 
thy  Catullus,  thy  Theocritus,  through 
the  gem-like  weather  of  the  Renouveau^ 
when   the  woods  were   enamelled  with 


28        LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

flowers,  and  the  young  Spring  was 
lodged,  like  a  wandering  prince,  in  his 
great  palaces  hung  with  green  : 

Orgiieilleux  de  ses  fleurs,  enfle  de  sa  jeunesse,     ' 
Loge  comme  un  grand  Prince  en  ses  vertes  maisons  ! 

Thou  sawest,  in  these  woods  by  Loire 
side,  the  fair  shapes  of  old  religion. 
Fauns,  Nymphs,  and  Satyrs,  and  heard'st 
in  the  nightingale's  music  the  plaint 
of  Philomel.  The  ancient  poets  came 
back  in  the  train  of  thyself  and  of  the 
Spring,  and  learning  was  scarce  less 
dear  to  thee  than  love  ;  and  thy  ladies 
seemed  fairer  for  the  names  they  bor- 
rowed from  the  beauties  of  forgotten  days, 
Helen  and  Cassandra.  How  sweetly 
didst  thou  sing  to  them  thine  old  mo- 
rality, and  how  gravely  didst  thou 
teach  the  lesson  of  the  Roses !  Well 
didst  thou  know  it,  well  didst  thou  love 
the  Rose,  since  thy  nurse,  carrying  thee, 
an  infant,  to  the  holy  font,  let  fall  on 
thee  the  sacred  water  brimmed  with 
floating  blossoms  of  the  Rose  ! 


PIERRE  DE  RONSARD  29 

Mignonne,  allons  voir  si  la  Rose, 
Qui  ce  matin  avoit  desclose 
Sa  robe  de  pourpre  au  soleil, 
A  point  perdu  ceste  vespree 
Les  plis  de  sa  robe  pourpree, 
Et  son  teint  au  votre  pareil. 

And  again, 

La  belle  Rose  du  Printemps, 
Aubert,  admoneste  les  hommes 
Passer  joyeusement  le  temps, 
Et  pendant  que  jeunes  nous  sommes, 
Esbattre  la  fleur  de  nos  ans. 

In  the  same  mood,  looking  far  down 
the  future,  thou  sangest  of  thy  lady's 
age,  the  most  sad,  the  most  beautiful  of 
thy  sad  and  beautiful  lays  ;  for  if  thy 
bees  gathered  much  honey  'twas  some- 
what bitter  to  taste,  like  that  of  the  Sar- 
dinian yews.  How  clearly  we  see  the 
great  hall,  the  grey  lady  spinning  and 
humming  among  her  drowsy  maids,  and 
how  they  waken  at  the  word,  and  she 
sees  her  spring  in  their  eyes,  and  they 
forecast  their  winter  in  her  face,  when  she 
murmurs  *  'Twas  Ronsard  sang  of  me.' 
Winter,  and  summer,  and  spring,  how 


30        LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

swiftly  they  pass,  and  how  early  time 
brought  thee  his  sorrows,  and  grief  cast 
her  dust  upon  thy  head. 

Adieu  ma  Lyre,  adieu  fillettes, 
Jadis  mes  douces  amourettes, 
Adieu,  je  sens  venir  ma  fin, 
Nul  passetemps  de  ma  jeunesse 
Ne  m'accompagne  en  la  vieillesse. 
Que  le  feu,  le  lict  et  le  vin. 

Wine,  and  a  soft  bed,  and  a  bright 
fire  :  to  this  trinity  of  poor  pleasures  we 
come  soon,  if,  indeed,  wine  be  left  to  us. 
Poetry  herself  deserts  us  ;  is  it  not  said 
that  Bacchus  never  forgives  a  renegade  ? 
and  most  of  us  turn  recreants  to  Bac- 
chus. Even  the  bright  fire,  I  fear,  was 
not  always  there  to  warm  thine  old 
blood,  Master,  or,  if  fire  there  were,  the 
wood  was  not  bought  with  thy  book- 
seller's money.  When  autumn  was 
drawing  in  during  thine  early  old  age, 
in  1584,  didst  thou  not  write  that  thou 
hadst  never  received  a  sou  at  the  hands 
of  all  the  publishers  who  vended  thy 
books  ?     And  as  thou  wert  about  put- 


PIERRE  DE   RONSARD  31 

ting  forth  thy  foHo  edition  of  1584, 
thou  didst  pray  Buon,  the  bookseller, 
to  give  thee  sixty  crowns  co  buy  wood 
withal,  and  make  thee  a  bright  fire  in 
winter  weather,  and  comfort  thine  old 
age  with  thy  friend  Gallandius.  And  if 
Buon  will  not  pay,  then  to  try  the  other 
booksellers,  'that  wish  to  take  everything 
and  give  nothing.' 

Was  it  knowledge  of  this  passage, 
Master,  or  ignorance  of  everything  else, 
that  made  certain  of  the  common  stead- 
fast dunces  of  our  days  speak  of  thee  as 
if  thou  hadst  been  a  starveling,  neglected 
poetaster,  jealous  forsooth  of  Maitre 
Frangoys  Rabelais  ?  See  how  ignorantly 
M.  Fleury  writes,  who  teaches  French 
literature  withal  to  them  of  Muscovy, 
and  hath  indited  a  Life  of  Rabelais. 
'  Rabelais  etait  revetu  d'un  emploi 
honorable  ;  Ronsard  etait  traite  en 
subalterne,'  quoth  this  wondrous  pro- 
fessor. What !  Pierre  de  Ronsard,  a 
gentleman  of  a  noble  house,  holding  the 
revenue  of  many  abbeys,  the  friend  of 


32        LETTERS    TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

Mary  Stuart,  of  the  Due  d'Orleans,  of 
Charles  IX.,  he  is  traite  en  siibalterne, 
and  is  jealous  of  a  frocked  or  unfrocked 
manant  like  Maitre  Frangoys !  And 
then  this  amazing  Fleury  falls  foul  of 
thine  epitaph  on  Maitre  Frangoys  and 
cries,  '  Ronsard  a  voulu  faire  des  vers 
mechants  ;  il  n'a  fait  que  de  mechants 
vers,'  More  truly  saith  M.  Sainte- 
Beuve,  *  If  the  good  Rabelais  had  re- 
turned to  Meudon  on  the  day  when  this 
epitaph  was  made  over  the  wine,  he 
would,  methinks,  have  laughed  heartily.' 
But  what  shall  be  said  of  a  Professor 
like  the  egregious  M.  Fleury,  who  holds 
that  Ronsard  was  despised  at  Court  "^ 
Was  there  a  party  at  tennis  when  the 
king  would  not  fain  have  had  thee  on 
his  side,  declaring  that  he  ever  won 
when  Ronsard  was  his  partner  ?  Did 
he  not  give  thee  benefices,  and  many 
priories,  and  call  thee  his  father  in 
Apollo,  and  even,  so  they  say,  bid  thee 
sit  down  beside  him  on  his  throne  ? 
Away,  ye  scandalous  folk,  who  tell  us 


PIERRE  DE  RONSARD  33 

that  there  was  strife  between  the  Prince 
of  Poets  and  the  King  of  Mirth.  Naught 
have  ye  by  way  of  proof  of  your  slander 
but  the  talk  of  Jean  Bernierj  a  scurrilous, 
starveling  apothecary,  who  put  forth  his 
fables  in  1697,  a  century  and  a  half 
after  Maitre  Fran^oys  died.  Bayle 
quoted  this  fellow  in  a  note,  and  ye  all 
steal  the  tattle  one  from  another  in  your 
dull  manner,  and  know  not  whence  it 
comes,  nor  even  that  Bayle  would  none 
of  it  and  mocked  its  author.  With  so 
little  knowledge  is  history  written,  and 
thus  doth  each  chattering  brook  of  a 
'  Life  '  swell  with  its  tribute  '  that  great 
Mississippi  of  falsehood,'  Biography. 


34       LETTERS   TO   DEAD  AUTHORS 


IV. 

To  Herodotus. 

To  Herodotus  of  Halicarnassus,  greet- 
ing.— Concerning  the  matters  set  forth 
in  your  histories,  and  the  tales  you 
tell  about  both  Greeks  and  Barbarians, 
whether  they  be  true,  or  whether  they 
be  false,  men  dispute  not  little  but  a 
great  deal.  Wherefore  I,  being  con- 
cerned to  know  the  verity,  did  set  forth 
to  make  search  in  every  manner,  and 
came  in  my  quest  even  unto  the  ends  of 
the  earth.  For  there  is  an  island  of 
the  Cimmerians  beyond  the  Straits  of 
Heracles,  some  three  days'  voyage  to  a 
ship  that  hath  a  fair  following  wind  in 
her  sails ;  and  there  it  is  said  that  men 
know  many  things  from  of  old  :  thither, 
then,  I  came  in  my  inquiry.  Now,  the 
island  is  not  small,  but   large,   greater 


HERODOTUS  35 

than  the  whole  of  Hellas  ;  and  they  call 
it  Britain.  In  that  island  the  east  wind 
blows  for  ten  parts  of  the  year,  and  the 
people  know  not  how  to  cover  them- 
selves from  the  cold.  But  for  the  other 
two  months  of  the  year  the  sun  shines 
fiercely,  so  that  some  of  them  die 
thereof,  and  others  die  of  the  frozen 
mixed  drinks  ;  for  they  have  ice  even 
in  the  summer,  and  this  ice  they  put  to 
their  liquor.  Through  the  whole  of  this 
island,  from  the  west  even  to  the  east, 
there  flows  a  river  called  Thames :  a 
great  river  and  a  laborious,  but  not  to 
be  likened  to  the  River  of  Egypt. 

The  mouth  of  this  river,  where  I 
stepped  out  from  my  ship,  is  exceedingly 
foul  and  of  an  evil  savour  by  reason  of 
the  city  on  the  banks.  Now  this  city 
is  several  hundred  parasangs  in  circum- 
ference. Yet  a  man  that  needed  not  to 
breathe  the  air  might  go  round  it  in  one 
hour,  in  chariots  that  run  under  the 
earth  ;  and  these  chariots  are  drawn  by 
creatures  that  breathe  smoke  and  sulphur, 

D  2 


36       LETTERS    TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

such  as  Orpheus  mentions  in  his  'Argo- 
nautica/  if  it  be  by  Orpheus.  The 
people  of  the  town,  when  I  inquired  of 
them  concerning  Herodotus  of  Hali- 
carnassus,  looked  on  me  with  amaze- 
ment, and  went  straightway  about  their 
business — namely,  to  seek  out  whatsoever 
new  thing  is  coming  to  pass  all  over  the 
whole  inhabited  world,  and  as  for  things 
old,  they  take  no  keep  of  them. 

Nevertheless,  by  diligence  I  learned 
that  he  who  in  this  land  knew  most 
concerning  Herodotus  was  a  priest,  and 
dwelt  in  the  priests'  city  on  the  river 
which  is  called  the  City  of  the  Ford  of 
the  Ox.  But  whether  lo,  when  she  wore 
a  cow's  shape,  had  passed  by  that  way 
in  her  wanderings,  and  thence  comes  the 
name  of  that  city,  I  could  not  (though  I 
asked  all  men  I  met)  learn  aught  with 
certainty.  But  to  me,  considering  this, 
it  seemed  that  lo  must  have  come 
thither.     And  now  farewell  to  lo. 

To  the  City  of  the  Priests  there  are 
two  roads :   one   by  land  ;  and  one  by 


HERODOTUS  37 

water,  following  the  river.  To  a  well- 
girdled  man,  the  land  journey  is  but 
one  day's  travel  ;  by  the  river  it  is 
longer  but  more  pleasant.  Now  that 
river  flows,  as  I  said,  from  the  west 
to  the  east.  And  there  is  in  it  a  fish 
called  chub,  which  they  catch  ;  but  they 
do  not  eat  it,  for  a  certain  sacred  reason. 
Also  there  is  a  fish  called  trout,  and  this 
is  the  manner  of  his  catching.  They 
build  for  this  purpose  great  dams  of 
wood,  which  they  call  weirs.  Having 
built  the  weir  they  sit  upon  it  with  rods 
in  their  hands,  and  a  line  on  the  rod, 
and  at  the  end  of  the  line  a  little  fish. 
There  then  they  'sit  and  spin  in  the 
sun,'  as  one  of  their  poets  says,  not  for 
a  short  time  but  for  many  days,  having 
rods  in  their  hands  and  eating  and 
drinking.  In  this  wise  they  angle  for  the 
fish  called  trout ;  but  whether  they  ever 
catch  him  or  not,  not  having  seen  it,  I 
cannot  say ;  for  it  is  not  pleasant  to  me 
to  speak  things  concerning  which  I  know 
not  the  truth. 


38       LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

Now,  after  sailing  and  rowing  against 
the  stream  for  certain  days,  I  came  to 
the  City  of  the  Ford  of  the  Ox.  Here 
the  river  changes  his  name,  and  is 
called  Isis,  after  the  name  of  the  god- 
dess of  the  Egyptians.  But  whether  the 
Britons  brought  the  name  from  Egypt 
or  whether  the  Egyptians  took  it  from 
the  Britons,  not  knowing  I  prefer  not 
to  say.  But  to  me  it  seems  that  the 
Britons  are  a  colony  of  the  Egyptians,  or 
the  Egyptians  a  colony  of  the  Britons. 
Moreover,  when  I  was  in  Egypt  I  saw 
certain  soldiers  in  white  helmets,  who 
were  certainly  British.  But  what  they 
did  there  (as  Egypt  neither  belongs  to 
Britain  nor  Britain  to  Egypt)  I  know 
not,  neither  could  they  tell  me.  But 
one  of  them  replied  to  me  in  that  line 
of  Horner  (if  the  Odyssey  be  Homer's), 
*  We  have  come  to  a  sorry  Cyprus,  and 
a  sad  Egypt.'  Others  told  me  that  they 
once  marched  against  the  Ethiopians, 
and  having  defeated  them  several  times, 
then    came   back    again,   leaving   their 


HERODOTUS  39 

property  to  the  Ethiopians.  But  as  to 
the  truth  of  this  I  leave  it  to  every  man 
to  form  his  own  opinion. 

Having  come  into  the  City  of  the 
Priests,  I  went  forth  into  the  street,  and 
found  a  priest  of  the  baser  sort,  who 
for  a  piece  of  silver  led  me  hither  and 
thither  among  the  temples,  discoursing 
of  many  things. 

Now  it  seemed  to  me  a  strange 
thing  that  the  city  was  empty,  and  no 
man  dwelling  therein,  save  a  few  priests 
only,  and  their  wives,  and  their  children, 
who  are  drawn  to  and  fro  in  little 
carriages  dragged  by  women.  But  the 
priest  told  me  that  during  half  the  year 
the  city  was  desolate,  for  that  there  came 
somewhat  called  'The  Long,'  or  'The 
Vac,'  and  drave  out  the  young  priests. 
And  he  said  that  these  did  no  other 
thing  but  row  boats,  and  throw  balls 
from  one  to  the  other,  and  this  they 
were  made  to  do,  he  said,  that  the 
young  priests  might  learn  to  be  humble, 
for  they  are  the  proudest  of  men.     But 


40       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

whether  he  spoke  truth  or  not  I  know- 
not,  only  I  set  down  what  he  told  me. 
But  to  anyone  considering  it,  this  ap- 
pears rather  to  jump  with  his  story — 
namely,  that  the  young  priests  have 
houses  on  the  river,  painted  of  divers 
colours,  all  of  them  empty. 

Then  the  priest,  at  my  desire, 
brought  me  to  one  of  the  temples,  that 
I  might  seek  out  all  things  concerning 
Herodotus  the  Halicarnassian,  from  one 
who  knew.  Now  this  temple  is  not  the 
fairest  in  the  city,  but  less  fair  and 
goodly  than  the  old  temples,  yet  good- 
lier and  more  fair  than  the  new  temples ; 
and  over  the  roof  there  is  the  image  of 
an  eagle  made  of  stone — no  small  marvel, 
but  a  great  one,  how  men  came  to  fashion 
him ;  and  that  temple  is  called  the  House 
of  Queens.  Here  they  sacrifice  a  boar 
once  every  year ;  and  concerning  this 
they  tell  a  certain  sacred  story  which  I 
know  but  will  not  utter. 

Then  I  was  brought  to  the  priest 
who   had    a   name   for   knowing    most 


HERODOTUS  41 

about  Egypt,  and  the  Egyptians,  and 
the  Assyrians,  and  the  Cappadocians, 
and  all  the  kingdoms  of  the  Great  King. 
He  came  out  to  me,  being  attired  in  a 
black  robe,  and  wearing  on  his  head  a 
square  cap.  But  why  the  priests  have 
square  caps  I  know,  and  he  who  has 
been  initiated  into  the  mysteries  which 
they  call  '  Matric '  knows,  but  I  prefer 
not  to  tell.  Concerning  the  square  cap, 
then,  let  this  be  sufficient.  Now,  the 
priest  received  me  courteously,  and  when 
I  asked  him,  concerning  Herodotus, 
whether  he  were  a  true  man  or  not, 
he  smiled,  and  answered  'Abu  Goosh,' 
which,  in  the  tongue  of  the  Arabians, 
means  *  The  Father  of  Liars.'  Then  he 
went  on  to  speak  concerning  Herodotus, 
and  he  said  in  his  discourse  that  Hero- 
dotus not  only  told  the  thing  which  was 
not,  but  that  he  did  so  wilfully,  as  one 
knowing  the  truth  but  concealing  it. 
For  example,  quoth  he,  '  Solon  never 
went  to  see  Croesus,  as  Herodotus  avers ; 
nor  did  those  about  Xerxes  ever  dream 


*:y^  OF  THK^ 

^tjitiversity; 


42       LETTERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

dreams  ;  but  Herodotus,  out  of  his  abun- 
dant wickedness,  invented  these  things. 
*■  Now  behold,'  he  went  on,  *  how  the 
curse  of  the  Gods  falls  upon  Herodotus. 
For  he  pretends  that  he  saw  Cadmeian 
inscriptions  at  Thebes.  Now  I  do  not 
believe  there  were  any  Cadmeian  in- 
scriptions there  :  therefore  Herodotus  is 
most  manifestly  lying.  Moreover,  this 
Herodotus  never  speaks  of  Sophocles 
the  Athenian,  and  why  not }  Because 
he,  being  a  child  at  school,  did  not 
learn  Sophocles  by  heart :  for  the  tra- 
gedies of  Sophocles  could  not  have  been 
learned  at  school  before  they  were  written, 
nor  can  any  man  quote  a  poet  whom  he 
never  learned  at  school.  Moreover,  as  all 
those  about  Herodotus  knew  Sophocles 
well,  he  could  not  appear  to  them  to  be 
learned  by  showing  that  he  knew  what 
they  knew  also.'  Then  I  thought  the 
priest  was  making  game  and  sport,  say- 
ing first  that  Herodotus  could  know 
no  poet  whom  he  had  not  learned  at 
school,  and  then  saying  that  all  the  men 


HERODOTUS  43 

of  his  time  well  knew  this  poet,  *  about 
whom  everyone  was  talking.'  But  the 
priest  seemed  not  to  know  that  Herodo- 
tus and  Sophocles  were  friends,  which  is 
proved  by  this,  that  Sophocles  wrote  an 
ode  in  praise  of  Herodotus. 

Then  he  went  on,  and  though  I  were 
to  write  with  a  hundred  hands  (like 
Briareus,  of  whom  Homer  makes  men- 
tion) I  could  not  tell  you  all  the  things 
that  the  priest  said  against  Herodotus, 
speaking  truly,  or  not  truly,  or  sometimes 
correctly  and  sometimes  not,  as  often 
befalls  mortal  men.  For  Herodotus,  he 
said,  was  chiefly  concerned  to  steal  the 
lore  of  those  who  came  before  him,  such 
as  Hecatseus,  and  then  to  escape  notice 
as  having  stolen  it.  Also  he  said  that, 
being  himself  cunning  and  deceitful, 
Herodotus  was  easily  beguiled  by  the 
cunning  of  others,  and  believed  in  things 
manifestly  false,  such  as  the  story  of 
the  Phoenix-bird. 

Then  I  spoke,  and  said  that  Hero- 
dotus  himself  declared    that   he   could 


44       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

not  believe  that  story ;  but  the  priest 
regarded  me  not.  And  he  said  that 
Herodotus  had  never  caught  a  crocodile 
with  cold  pig,  nor  did  he  ever  visit 
Assyria,  nor  Babylon,  nor  Elephantine  ; 
but,  saying  that  he  had  been  in  these 
lands,  said  that  which  was  not  true. 
He  also  declared  that  Herodotus,  when 
he  travelled,  knew  none  of  the  Fat  Ones 
of  the  Egyptians,  but  only  those  of  the 
baser  sort.  And  he  called  Herodotus  a 
thief  and  a  beguiler,  and  '  the  same  with 
intent  to  deceive,'  as  one  of  their  own 
poets  writes.-  And, to  be  short,  Herodotus, 
I  could  not  tell  you  in  one  day  all  the 
charges  which  are  now  brought  against 
you  ;  but  concerning  the  truth  of  these 
things,  you  know,  not  least,  but  most, 
as  to  yourself  being  guilty  or  innocent 
Wherefore,  if  you  have  anything  to  show 
or  set  forth  whereby  you  may  be  relieved 
from  the  burden  of  these  accusations, 
now  is  the  time.  Be  no  longer  silent ; 
but,  whether  through  the  Oracle  of 
the  Dead,  or  the  Oracle  of  Branchidae, 


HERODOTUS  45 

or  that  in  Delphi,  or  Dodona,  or  of 
Amphiaraus  at  Oropus,  speak  to  your 
friends  and  lovers  (whereof  I  am  one  from 
of  old)  and  let  men  know  the  very  truth. 

Now,  concerning  the  priests  in  the 
City  of  the  Ford  of  the  Ox,  it  is  to  be 
said  that  of  all  men  whom  we  know  they 
receive  strangers  most  gladly,  feasting 
them  all  day.  Moreover,  they  have 
many  drinks,  cunningly  mixed,  and  of 
these  the  best  is  that  they  call  Arch- 
deacon, naming  it  from  one  of  the  priests' 
offices.  Truly,  as  Homer  says  (if  the 
Odyssey  be  Homer's),  'when  that  draught 
is  poured  into  the  bowl  then  it  is  no 
pleasure  to  refrain.' 

Drinking  of  this  wine,  or  nectar, 
Herodotus,!  pledge  you,  and  pour  forth 
some  deal  on  the  ground,  to  Herodotus 
of  Halicarnassus,  in  the  House  of  Hades. 

And  I  wish  you  farewell,  and  good 
be  with  you.  Whether  the  priest  spoke 
truly,  or  not  truly,  even  so  may  such 
good  things  betide  you  as  befall  dead 
men. 


46       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 


V. 

Epistle  to  Mr.  Alexander  Pope, 

From  mortal  Gratitude,  decide,  my  Pope, 

Have  Wits   Immortal  more  to   fear  or 
hope  ? 

Wits  toil  and  travail  round  the  Plant  of 
Fame, 

Their  Works  its  Garden,  and  its  Growth 
their  Aim, 

Then      Commentators,      in      unwieldy 
Dance, 

Break   down    the  Barriers    of  the  trim 
Pleasance, 

Pursue  the  Poet,  like  Actaeon's  Hounds, 

Beyond     the     fences     of   his     Garden 
Grounds, 

Rend  from  the  singing  Robes  each  bor- 
rowed Gem, 

Rend  from  the  laurel'd  Brows  the  Dia- 
dem, 


POPE  47 

And,   if    one    Rag   of  Character    they 

spare, 
Comes   the   Biographer,   and    strips    it 

bare! 

Such,  Pope,  has  been  thy  Fortune,  such 

thy  Doom. 
Swift  the  Ghouls  gathered  at  the  Poet's 

Tomb, 
With  Dust  of  Notes  to  clog  each  lordly 

Line, 
Warburton,   Warton,    Croker,    Bowles, 

combine ! 
Collecting      Cackle,    Johnson      conde- 
scends 
To    interview     the    Drudges    of    your 

Friends. 
Thus  though  your  Courthope  holds  your 

merits  high. 
And  still  proclaims  your  Poems  Poetry^ 
Biographers,      un  -  Boswell  -  like,      have 

sneered, 
And    Dunces   edit   him   whom  Dunces 
feared ! 


48       LETTJ^RS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

They  say,  *  what  say  they  ? '  Not  in  vain 

You  ask  ; 
To  tell  you  what  they  say,  behold   my 

Task! 
*  Methinks  already  I  your  Tears  survey ' 
As  I  repeat  'the  horrid  Things  they  say.'' 

Comes  El — n  first :  I  fancy  you'll  agree 
Not  frenzied    Dennis    smote   so  fell  as 

he; 
For  El — n's  Introduction,  crabbed  and 

dry, 
Like  Churchill's  Cudgel's  ^  marked  with 

Lie^  and  Lie  ! 

'  Too  dull  to  know  what  his  own  System 

meant. 
Pope  yet  was  skilled  new  Treasons  to 

invent ; 
A  Snake  that  puffed  himself  and  stung 

his  Friends, 
Few  Lied  so   frequent,   for  such  little 

Ends  ; 

'  Rape  of  the  Lock. 

*  In  Mr.  Hogarth's  Caricatura. 


POPE  49 

His  mind,  like  Flesh  inflamed,'  was  raw 

and  sore. 
And  still,  the  more  he  writhed,  he  stung 

the  more  ! 
Oft     in     a     Quarrel,     never      in     the 

Right, 
His    Spirit   sank   when    he   was  called 

to  fight. 
Pope,    in  the    Darkness  mining   like  a 

Mole, 
Forged  on  Himself,  as  from  Himself  he 

stole, 
And  what  for  Caryll  once  he  feigned  to 

feel. 
Transferred,  in    Letters   never  sent,   to 

Steele  ! 
Still    he   denied    the    Letters    he   had 

writ. 
And  still  mistook  Indecency  for  Wit. 
His  very  Grammar,    so    De    Quincey 

cries, 
"  Detains   the    Reader,   and    at     times 

defies ! " ' 

*  Elwin's  Pope,  ii.  15. 

E 


50       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Fierce  El — n  thus  :  no  Line  escapes  his 

Rage, 
And    furious    Foot-notes    growl    'neath 

every  Page  : 
See  St-ph-n   next  take   up  the  woful 

Tale, 
Prolong  the  Preaching,  and  protract  the 

Wail ! 
'  Some    forage    Falsehoods    from     the 

North  and  South, 
But  Pope,  poor  D 1,  lied  from  Hand 

to  Mouth  ;  1 
Affected,  hypocritical,  and  vain, 
A    Book   in    Breeches,    and    a    Fop    in 

Grain  ; 
A  Fox  that  found  not  the  high  Clusters 

sour. 
The    Fanfaron    of    Vice    beyond     his 

power, 
Pope   yet   possessed ' — (the   Praise  will 

make  you  start) — 
'  Mean,  morbid,  vain,  he  yet  possessed 

a  Heart ! 

'   '  Poor  Pope  was  always  a  hand-to-mouth  liar.' — 
Pope,  by  Leslie  Stephen,  139. 


POPE  51 

And  still  we  marvel  at  the  Man,  and 
still 

Admire  his  Finish,  and  applaud  his 
Skill : 

Though,  as  that  fabled  Barque,  a  phan- 
tom Form, 

Eternal  strains,  nor  rounds  the  Cape  of 
Storm, 

Even  so  Pope  strove,  nor  ever  crossed 
the  Line. 

That  from  the  Noble  separates  the 
Fine  ! ' 

The  Learned  thus,  and  who  can  quite 

reply. 
Reverse  the  Judgment,  and  Retort  the 

Lie? 
You  reap,  in  armed  Hates  that   haunt 

your  Name, 
Reap   what   you    sowed,   the  Dragon's 

Teeth  of  Fame : 
You    could  not  write,  and    from  unen- 

vious  Time 
Expect  the  Wreath  that  crowns  the  lofty 

Rhyme, 

E  2 


52       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

You   Still    must    fight,    retreat,    attack 

defend. 
And    oft,   to   snatch    a    Laurel,    lose  a 

Friend  ! 

The    Pity   of  it !     And    the    changing 

Taste 
Of  changing  Time  leaves  half  your  Work 

a  Waste  ! 
My  Childhood  fled  your  Couplet's  clarion 

tone, 
And  sought  for  Homer  in  the  Prose  of 

Bohn. 
Still  through  the  Dust  of  that  dim  Prose 

appears 
The  Flight  of  Arrows  and  the  Sheen  of 

Spears  ; 
Still  we  may  trace  what  Hearts  heroic 

feel, 
And  hear  the  Bronze  that  hurtles  on  the 

Steel  ! 
But,  ah,  your    Iliad  seems    a  half-pre- 
tence, 
Where  Wits,   not    Heroes,  prove    their 

Skill  in  Fence, 


POPE  S3 

And    great     Achilles'    Eloquence   doth 

show 
As  if  no  Centaur  trained  him,  but  Boi- 

leau  ! 

Again,    your    Verse    is    orderly, — and 

more, — 
'  The  Waves  behind  impel  the  Waves 

before ; ' 
Monotonously  musical  they  glide. 
Till  Couplet  unto  Couplet  hath  replied. 
But  turn  to  Homer !     How  his  Verses 

sweep  ! 
Surge  answers  Surge  and  Deep  doth  call 

on  Deep  ; 
This  Line  in  Foam  and  Thunder  issues 

forth. 
Spurred  by  the  West  or  smitten  by  the 

North, 
Sombre  in  all  its  sullen  Deeps,  and  all 
Clear  at  the  Crest,  and  foaming  to  the 

Fall, 
The  next  with  silver  Murmur  dies  away. 
Like  Tides    that    falter    to    Calypso's 

Bay! 


54       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Thus  Time,   with  sordid  Alchemy  and 

dread, 
Turns  half  the  Glory  of  your  Gold  to 

Lead  ; 
Thus  Time, — at  Ronsard's  wreath  that 

vainly  bit, — 
Has   marred  the  Poet  to  preserve  the 
•       Wit, 

Who  almost  left  on  Addison  a  stain, 
Whose  Knife  cut  cleanest  with  a  poi- 
soned pain, — 
Yet  Thou  (strange  Fate  that  clings  to 

all  of  Thine  !) 
When  most  a  Wit   dost    most    a  Poet 

shine. 
In  Poetry  thy  Dunciad  expires, 
When   Wit   has    shot  '  her  momentary 

Fires.' 
'Tis  Tragedy  that  watches  by  the  Bed 
*  Where    tawdry    Yellow    strove     with 

dirty  Red,' 
And  Men,  remembering  all,  can  scarce 

deny 
To  lay  the  Laurel  where  thine  Ashes 

lie! 


55 


VI. 

To  Lucian  of  Sarnosata. 

In  what  bower,  oh  Lucian,  of  your 
rediscovered  Islands  Fortunate  are  you 
now  reclining ;  the  delight  of  the  fair, 
the  learned,  the  witty,  and  the  brave  ? 
In  that  clear  and  tranquil  climate,  whose 
air  breathes  of  *  violet  and  lily,  myrtle, 
and  the  flower  of  the  vine,' 

Where  the  daisies  are  rose-scented. 
And  the  Rose  herself  has  got 
Perfume  which  on  earth  is  not, 

among  the  music  of  all  birds,  and  the 
wind-blown  notes  of  flutes  hanging  on  the 
trees,  methinks  that  your  laughter  sounds 
most  silvery  sweet,  and  that  Helen  and 
fair  Charmides  are  still  of  your  company. 
Master  of  mirth,  and  Soul  the  best  con- 
tented of  all  that  have  seen  the  world's 
ways  clearly,  most  clear-sighted   of  all 


S6       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

that  have  made  tranquillity  their  bride, 
what  other  laughers  dwell  with  you, 
where  the  crystal  and  fragrant  waters 
wander  round  the  shining  palaces  and 
the  temples  of  amethyst  ? 

Heine  surely  is  with  you  ;  if,  indeed, 
it  was  not  one  Syrian  soul  that  dwelt 
among  alien  men,  Germans  and  Romans, 
in  the  bodily  tabernacles  of  Heine  and  of 
Lucian.  But  he  was  fallen  on  evil  times 
and  evil  tongues  ;  while  Lucian,  as  witty 
as  he,  as  bitter  in  mockery,  as  happily 
dowered  with  the  magic  of  words,  lived 
long  and  happily  and  honoured,  im- 
prisoned in  no  '  mattress-grave.'  With- 
out Rabelais,  without  Voltaire,  without 
Heine,  you  would  find,  methinks,  even 
the  joys  of  your  Happy  Islands  lacking 
in  zest ;  and,  unless  Plato  came  by  your 
way,  none  of  the  ancients  could  meet  you 
in  the  lists  of  sportive  dialogue. 

There,  among  the  vines  that  bear 
twelve  times  in  the  year,  more  excellent 
than  all  the  vineyards  of  Touraine,  while 
the  song-birds  bring  you  flowers  from 


LUCIAN  OF  S AMOS  ATA  57 

vales  enchanted,  and  the  shapes  of  the 
Blessed  come  and  go,  beautiful  in  wind- 
woven  raiment  of  sunset  hues  ;  there,  in 
a  land  that  knows  not  age,  nor  winter, 
midnight,  nor  autumn,  nor  noon,  where 
the  silver  twilight  of  summer-dawn  is 
perennial,  where  youth  does  not  wax 
spectre-pale  and  die  ;  there,  my  Lucian, 
you  are  crowned  the  Prince  of  the  Para- 
dise of  Mirth. 

Who  would  bring  you,  if  he  had  the 
power,  from  the  banquet  where  Homer 
sings  :  Homer,  who,  in  mockery  of  com- 
mentators, past  and  to  come,  German 
and  Greek,  informed  you  that  he  was  by 
birth  a  Babylonian  ?  Yet,  if  you,  who 
first  wrote  Dialogues  of  the  Dead,  could 
hear  the  prayer  of  an  epistle  wafted  to 
'  lands  indiscoverable  in  the  unheard-of 
West,'  you  might  visit  once  more  a  world 
so  worthy  of  such  a  mocker,  so  like  the 
world  you  knew  so  well  of  old. 

Ah,  Lucian,  we  have  need  of  you,  of 
your  sense  and  of  your  mockery  !  Here, 
where   faith   is  sick  and  superstition  is 


58       LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

waking  afresh  ;  where  gods  come  rarely, 
and  spectres  appear  at  five  shiUings  an 
interview  ;  where  science  is  popular,  and 
philosophy  cries  aloud  in  the  market- 
place, and  clamour  does  duty  for  govern- 
ment, and  Thais  and  Lais  are  names 
of  power — here,  Lucian,  is  room  and 
scope  for  you.  Can  I  not  imagine 
a  new  '  Auction  of  Philosophers,'  and 
what  wealth  might  be  made  by  him  who 
bought  these  popular  sages  and  lecturers 
at  his  estimate,  and  vended  them  at 
their  own  ? 

Hermes  :  Whom  shall  we  put  first 
up  to  auction  ? 

Zeus  :  That  German  in  spectacles  ; 
he  seems  a  highly  respectable  man. 

Hermes  :  Ho,  Pessimist,  come  down 
and  let  the  public  view  you. 

Zeus  :  Go  on,  put  him  up  and  have 
done  with  him. 

Hermes  :  Who  bids  for  the  Life 
Miserable,  for  extreme,  complete,  per- 
fect, unredeemable  perdition  t  What 
offers  for  the  universal  extinction  of  the 


LUCIAN  OF  S AMOS  ATA  59 

Species,  and  the  collapse  of  the  Con- 
scious ? 

A  Purchaser  :  He  does  not  look 
at  all  a  bad  lot.  May  one  put  him 
through  his  paces  ? 

Hermes  :  Certainly  ;  try  your 
luck. 

Purchaser  :  What  is  your  name  ? 

Pessimist:  Hartmann. 

Purchaser  :  What  can  you  teach 
me? 

Pessimist  :  That  Life  is  not  worth 
Living. 

Purchaser  :  Wonderful  !  Most 
edifying  !     How  much  for  this  lot  ? 

Hermes  :  Two  hundred  pounds. 

Purchaser  :  I  will  write  you  a 
cheque  for  the  money.  Come  home, 
Pessimist,  and  begin  your  lessons  with- 
out more  ado. 

Hermes  :  Attention  !  Here  is  a 
magnificent  article — the  Positive  Life, 
the  Scientific  Life,  the  Enthusiastic  Life. 
Who  bids  for  a  possible  place  in  the 
Calendar  of  the  Future  ? 


6o       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Purchaser  :  What  does  he  call  him- 
self ?  he  has  a  very  French  air. 

Hermes  :  Put  your  own  ques- 
tions. 

Purchaser  :  What's  your  pedigree, 
my  Philosopher,  and  previous  perform- 
ances ? 

POSITIVIST  :  I  am  by  Rousseau  out 
of  Catholicism,  with  a  strain  of  the 
Evolution  blood. 

Purchaser  :  What  do  you  believe 
in? 

POSITIVIST  :  In  Man,  with  a  large  M. 

Purchaser  :  Not  in  individual 
Man.? 

POSITIVIST  :  By  no  means ;  not  even 
always  in  Mr.  Gladstone.  All  men,  all 
Churches,  all  parties,  all  philosophies, 
and  even  the  other  sect  of  our  own 
Church,  are  perpetually  in  the  wrong. 
Buy  me,  and  listen  to  me,  and  you  will 
always  be  in  the  right. 

Purchaser  :  And,  after  this  life, 
what  have  you  to  offer  me  ? 

POSITIVIST:    A   distinguished    posi- 


LUCIAN  OF  SA  MO  SAT  A  6i 

tion  in  the  Choir  Invisible  ;    but  not,  of 
course,  conscious  immortality. 

Purchaser  :   Take  him  away,  and 
put  up  another  lot. 

Then  the  Hegelian,  with  his  Notion, 
and  the  Darwinian,  with  his  notions, 
and  the  Lotzian,  with  his  Broad  Church 
mixture  of  Religion  and  Evolution, 
and  the  Spencerian,  with  that  Absolute 
which  is  a  sort  of  a  something,  might 
all  be  offered  with  their  divers  wares  ; 
and  cheaply  enough,  Lucian,  you  would 
value  them  in  this  auction  of  Sects. 
'  There  is  but  one  way  to  Corinth,'  as 
of  old  ;  but  which  that  way  may  be, 
oh  master  of  Hermotimus,  we  know  no 
more  than  he  did  of  old  ;  and  still  we 
find,  of  all  philosophies,  that  the  Stoic 
route  is  most  to  be  recommended.  But  we 
have  our  Cyrenaics  too,  though  they  are 
no  longer '  clothed  in  purple,  and  crowned 
with  flowers,  and  fond  of  drink  and  of 
female  flute-players.'  Ah,  here  too,  you 
might  laugh,  and  fail  to  see  where  the 
Pleasure  lies,  when  the  Cyrenaics  are  no 


62       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

'judges  of  cakes'  (nor  of  ale,  for  that 
matter),  and  are  strangers  in  the  Courts 
of  Princes.  '  To  despise  all  things,  to 
make  use  of  all  things,  in  all  things  to 
follow  pleasure  only  : '  that  is  not  the 
manner  of  the  new,  if  it  were  the  secret 
of  the  older  Hedonism. 

Then,  turning  from  the  philosophers 
to  the  seekers  after  a  sign,  what  change, 
Lucian,  would  you  find  in  them  and 
their  ways  ?  None  ;  they  are  quite  un- 
altered. Still  our  Peregrinus,  and  our 
Peregrina  too,  come  to  us  from  the  East, 
or,  if  from  the  West,  they  take  India  on 
their  way — India,  that  secular  home  ot 
drivelling  creeds,  and  of  religion  in  its 
sacerdotage.  Still  they  prattle  of  Brah- 
mins and  Buddhism ;  though,  unlike 
Peregrinus,  they  do  not  publicly  burn 
themselves  on  pyres,  at  Epsom  Downs, 
after  the  Derby.  We  are  not  so  fortunate 
in  the  demise  of  our  Theosophists  ;  and 
our  police,  less  wise  than  the  Helleno- 
dicse,  would  probably  not  permit  the 
Immolation  of  the  Quack.     Like  your 


LUCIAN  OF  S AMOS  AT  A  63 

Alexander,  they  deal  in  marvels  and 
miracles,  oracles  and  warnings.  All 
such  bogy  stories  as  those  of  your 
'  Philopseudes,'  and  the  ghost  of  the 
lady  who  took  to  table-rapping  because 
one  of  her  best  slippers  had  not  been 
burned  with  her  body,  are  gravely  inves- 
tigated by  the  Psychical  Society. 

Even  your  ignorant  Bibliophile  is 
still  with  us-- the  man  without  a  tinge 
of  letters,  who  buys  up  old  manuscripts 
'  because  they  are  stained  and  gnawed, 
and  who  goes,  for  proof  of  valued  anti- 
quity, to  the  testimony  of  the  book- 
worms.' And  the  rich  Bibliophile  now, 
as  in  your  satire,  clothes  his  volumes  in 
purple  morocco  and  gay  dortires,  while 
their  contents  are  sealed  to  him. 

As  to  the  topics  of  satire  and  gay 
curiosity  which  occupy  the  lady  known 
as  '  Gyp,'  and  M.  Halevy  in  his  '  Les 
Petites  Cardinal,'  if  you  had  not  ex- 
hausted the  matter  in  your '  Dialogues  of 
Hetairai,'  you  would  be  amused  to  find 
the  same  old  traits  surviving-  without  a 


64       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

touch  of  change.  One  reads,  in  Halevy's 
French,  of  Madame  Cardinal,  and,  in 
your  Greek,  of  the  mother  of  Philinna, 
and  marvels  that  eighteen  hundred  years 
have  not  in  one  single  trifle  altered  the 
mould.  Still  the  old  shabby  light-loves, 
the  old  greed,  the  old  luxury  and  squalor. 
Still  the  unconquerable  superstition  that 
now  seeks  to  tell  fortunes  by  the  cards, 
and,  in  your  time,  resorted  to  the  sor- 
ceress with  her  magical  '  bull-roarer '  or 
turndun} 

Yes,  Lucian,  we  are  the  same  vain 
creatures  of  doubt  and  dread,  of  unbelief 
and  credulity,  of  avarice  and  pretence, 
that  you  knew,  and  at  whom  you  smiled. 
Nay,  our  very  *  social  question  '  is  not 
altered.  Do  you  not  write,  in  '  The 
Runaways,'  '  The  artisans  will  abandon 
their  workshops,  and  leave  their  trades, 
when  they  see  that,  with  all  the  labour 
that   bows  their   bodies    from    dawn  to 

'  The  Greek  p6iJ.^os,  mentioned  by  Lucian  and 
Theocritus,  was  the  magical  weapon  of  the  Austra- 
lians— the  turndun. 


LUCIAN  OF  S AMOS  ATA  65 

dark,  they  make  a  petty  and  starveling 
pittance,  while  men  that  toil  not  nor 
spin  are  floating  in  Pactolus  '  ? 

They  begin  to  see  this  again  as  of 
yore  ;  but  whether  the  end  of  their  vision 
will  be  a  laughing  matter,  you,  fortunate 
Lucian,  do  not  need  to  care.  Hail  to 
you,  and  farewell ! 


66       LETTERS  TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 


VII. 

To  Mattre  Frmi^oys  Rabelais. 

OF   THE   COMING  OF   THE  COQCIGRUES. 

Master, — In  the  Boreal  and  Sep- 
tentrional lands,  turned  aside  from  the 
noonday  and  the  sun,  there  dwelt  of  old 
(as  thou  knowest,  and  as  Olaus  voucheth) 
a  race  of  men,  brave,  strong,  nimble,  and 
adventurous,  who  had  no  other  care  but 
to  fight  and  drink.  There,  by  reason 
of  the  cold  (as  Virgil  witnesseth),  men 
break  wine  with  axes.  To  their  minds, 
when  once  they  were  dead  and  gotten 
to  Valhalla,  or  the  place  of  their  Gods, 
there  would  be  no  other  pleasure  but 
to  swig,  tipple,  drink,  and  boose  till 
the  coming  of  that  last  darkness  and 
Twilight,  wherein  they,  with  their  deities, 
should  do  battle  against  the  enemies  of 


RABELAIS  6j 

all    mankind ;    which    day   they   rather 
desired  than  dreaded. 

So  chanced  it  also  with  Pantagruel 
and  Brother  John  and  their  company, 
after  they  had  once  partaken  of  the 
secret  of  the  Dive  Bouteille.  Thereafter 
they  searched  no  longer  ;  but,  abiding 
at  their  ease,  were  merry,  frolic,  jolly, 
gay,  glad,  and  wise  ;  only  that  they 
always  and  ever  did  expect  the  awful 
Coming  of  the  Coqcigrues.  Now  con- 
cerning the  day  of  that  coming,  and  the 
nature  of  them  that  should  come,  they 
knew  nothing  ;  and  for  his  part  Panurge 
was  all  the  more  adread,  as  Aristotle 
testifieth  that  men  (and  Panurge  above 
others)  most  fear  that  which  they  know 
least.  Now  it  chanced  one  day,  as  they 
sat  at  meat,  with  viands  rare,  dainty,  and 
precious  as  ever  Apicius  dreamed  of, 
that  there  fluttered  on  the  air  a  faint 
sound  as  of  sermons,  speeches,  orations, 
addresses,  discourses,  lectures,  and  the 
like  ;  whereat  Panurge,  pricking  up  his 
ears,  cried,  '  Methinks  this  wind  bloweth 

F  2 


68       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

from    Midlothian,'    and  so  fell  a  trem- 
bling. 

Next,  to  their  aural  orifices,  and  the 
avenues  audient  of  the  brain,  was  borne 
a  very  melancholy  sound  as  of  harmo- 
niums, hymns,  organ-pianos,  psalteries, 
and  the  like,  all  playing  different  airs,  in 
a  kind  most  hateful  to  the  Muses.  Then 
said  Panurge,  as  well  as  he  might  for 
the  chattering  of  his  teeth  :  '  May  I  never 
drink  if  here  come  not  the  Coqcigrues  ! ' 
and  this  saying  and  prophecy  of  his 
was  true  and  inspired.  But  thereon  the 
others  began  to  mock,  flout,  and  gird  at 
Panurge  for  his  cowardice.  '  Here  am 
I  ! '  cried  Brother  John,  *  well-armed  and 
ready  to  stand  a  siege  ;  being  entrenched, 
fortified,  hemmed -in  and  surrounded 
with  great  pasties,  huge  pieces  of  salted 
beef,  salads,  fricassees,  hams,  tongues, 
pies,  and  a  wilderness  of  pleasant  little 
tarts,  jellies,  pastries,  trifles,  and  fruits  of 
all  kinds,  and  I  shall  not.  thirst  while 
I  have  good  wells,  founts,  springs,  and 
sources    of  Bordeaux   wine.  Burgundy, 


RABELAIS  69 

wine  of  the  Champagne  country,  sack 
and  Canary.     A  fig  for  thy  Coqcigrues  ! ' 

But  even  as  he  spoke  there  ran  up 
suddenly  a  whole  legion,  or  rather  army, 
of  physicians,  each  armed  with  laryngo- 
scopes, stethoscopes,  horoscopes,  micro- 
scopes, weighing  machines,  and  such  other 
tools,  engines,  and  arms  as  they  had  who, 
after  thy  time,  persecuted  Monsieur  de 
Pourceaugnac  !  And  they  all,  rushing 
on  Brother  John,  cried  out  to  him,  '  Ab- 
stain !  Abstain  ! '  And  one  said,  '  I  have 
well  diagnosed  thee,  and  thou  art  in  a 
fair  way  to  have  the  gout.'  '  I  never  did 
better  in  my  days,'  said  Brother  John. 
'  Away  with  thy  meats  and  drinks  !  ' 
they  cried.  And  one  said,  '  He  must 
to  Royat ; '  and  another,  '  Hence  with 
him  to  Aix  ; '  and  a  third,  '  Banish  him 
to  Wiesbaden  ; '  and  a  fourth,  '  Hale  him 
to  Gastein  ; '  and  yet  another,  *  To  Bar- 
bouille  with  him  in  chains  ! ' 

And  while  others  felt  his  pulse  and 
looked  at  his  tongue,  they  all  wrote  pre- 
scriptions for  him  like  men  mad.     '  For 


70       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

thy  eating/  cried  he  that  seemed  to  be 
their  leader,  *  No  soup  ! '  '  No  soup  ! ' 
quoth  Brother  John  ;  and  those  cheeks 
of  his,  whereat  you  might  have  warmed 
your  two  hands  in  the  winter  solstice, 
grew  white  as  lilies.  '  Nay !  and  no 
salmon,  nor  any  beef  nor  mutton  !  A 
little  chicken  by  times,  but  pe^^iculo  tuo! 
Nor  any  game,  such  as  grouse,  partridge, 
pheasant,  capercailzie,  wild  duck ;  nor 
any  cheese,  nor  fruit,  nor  pastry,  nor 
coffee,  nor  eaic  de  vie ;  and  avoid  all 
sweets.  No  veal,  pork,  nor  made  dishes 
of  any  kind.'  '  Then  what  may  I  eat  ?  ' 
quoth  the  good  Brother,  whose  valour 
bad  oozed  out  of  the  soles  of  his  sandals. 
'A  little  cold  bacon  at  breakfast — no 
eggs,'  quoth  the  leader  of  the  strange 
folk,  'and  a  slice  of  toast  without 
butter.'  '  And  for  thy  drink '— ('  What  t ' 
gasped  Brother  John)— 'one  dessert- 
spoonful of  whisky,  with  a  pint  of  the 
water  of  ApoUinaris  at  luncheon  and 
dinner.  No  more  ! '  At  this  Brother 
John  fainted,  falling  like  a  great  buttress 


RABELAIS  71 

of  a  hill,  such  as  Taygetus  or  Eryman- 
thus. 

While  they  were  busy  with  him, 
others  of  the  frantic  folk  had  built  great 
platforms  of  wood,  whereon  they  all 
stood  and  spoke  at  once,  both  men  and 
women.  And  of  these  some  wore  red 
crosses  on  their  garments,  which  mean- 
eth  '  Salvation  ; '  and  others  wore  white 
crosses,  with  a  little  black  button  of 
crape,  to  signify  *  Purity ; '  and  others 
bits  of  blue  to  mean  *  Abstinence.' 
While  some  of  these  pursued  Panurge 
others  did  beset  Pantagruel ;  asking  him 
very  long  questions,  whereunto  he  gave 
but  short  answers.     Thus  they  asked  : — 

Have  ye  Local  Option  here  i* — 
Pan.  :  What  ? 

May  one  man  drink  if  his  neighbour 
be  not  athirst  ? — Pan.  :  Yea  ! 

Have  ye  Free  Education  ? — Pan.  : 
What? 

Must  they  that  have,  pay  to  school 
them  that  have  not  ? — Pan. :  Nay  ! 

Have  ye  free  land  ? — Pan.  :  What  ? 


72       LETTERS  TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Have  ye  taken  the  land  from  the 
farmer,  and  given  it  to  the  tailor  out  of 
work  and  the  candlemaker  masterless  ? 
— Pan.  :  Nay  ! 

Have  your  women  folk  votes? — 
Pan.:  Bosh! 

Have  ye  got  religion  ? — Pan.:  How? 

Do  you  go  about  the  streets  at 
night,  brawling,  blowing  a  trumpet  be- 
fore you,  and  making  long  prayers  i* — 
Pan.:  Nay! 

Have  you  manhood  suffrage  ? — Pan. : 
Eh? 

Is  Jack  as  good  as  his  master? — 
Pan. :  Nay  I 

Have  you  joined  the  Arbitration 
Society  } — Pan. :  Quoy  ? 

Will  you  let  another  kick  you,  and 
will  you  ask  his  neighbour  if  you  de- 
serve the  same  } — Pan. :  Nay  ! 

Do  you  eat  what  you  list  ? — Pan.  : 
Ay! 

Do  you  drink  when  you  are  athirst  ? 
—Pan. :  Ay  ! 

Are  you   governed  by  the  free  ex- 


RABELAIS  73 

pression  of  the  popular  will  ?  —  Pan. : 
How  ? 

Are  you  servants  of  priests,  pulpits, 
and  penny  papers  ? — Pan. :  No  ! 

Now,  when  they  heard  these  answers 
of  Pantagruel  they  all  fell,  some  a  weep- 
ing, some  a  praying,  some  a  swearing, 
some  an  arbitrating,  some  a  lecturing, 
some  a  caucussing,  some  a  preaching, 
some  a  faith-healing,  some  a  miracle- 
working,  som.e  a  hypnotising,  some  a  writ- 
ing to  the  daily  press  ;  and  while  they 
were  thus  busy,  like  folk  distraught,  '  re- 
forming the  island,'  Pantagruel  burst 
out  a  laughing ;  whereat  they  were 
greatly  dismayed  ;  for  laughter  killeth 
the  whole  race  of  Coqcigrues,  and  they 
may  not  endure  it. 

Then  Pantagruel  and  his  company 
stole  aboard  a  barque  that  Panurge  had 
ready  in  the  harbour.  And  having  pro- 
visioned her  well  with  store  of  meat  and 
good  drink,  they  set  sail  for  the  kingdom 
of  Entelechy,  where,  having  landed,  they 
were  kindly  entreated  ;  and  there,  abide 


74       LETTERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

to  this  day  ;  drinking  of  the  sweet  and 
eating  of  the  fat,  under  the  protection 
of  that  intellectual  sphere  which  hath  in 
all  places  its  centre  and  nowhere  its  cir- 
cumference. 

Such  was  their  destiny ;  there  was 
their  end  appointed,  and  thither  the 
Coqcigrues  can  never  come.  For  all  the 
air  of  that  land  is  full  of  laughter,  which 
killeth  Coqcigrues  ;  and  there  aboundeth 
the  herb  Pantagruelion.  But  for  thee, 
Master  Frangoys,  thou  art  not  well  liked 
in  this  island  of  ours,  where  the  Coq- 
cigrues are  abundant,  very  fierce,  cruel, 
and  tyrannical.  Yet  thou  hast  thy 
friends,  that  meet  and  drink  to  thee,  and 
wish  thee  well  wheresoever  thou  hast 
found  thy  grand peut-etre. 


75 


VIII. 

To  Jane  Austen. 

Madam, — If  to  the  enjoyments  of 
your  present  state  be  lacking  a  view  of  the 
minor  infirmities  or  foibles  of  men,  I  can- 
not but  think  (were  the  thought  permitted  ) 
that  your  pleasures  are  yet  incomplete. 
Moreover,  it  is  certain  that  a  woman  of 
parts  who  has  once  meddled  with  litera- 
ture will  never  wholly  lose  her  love  for 
the  discussion  of  that  delicious  topic, 
nor  cease  to  relish  what  (in  the  cant  of 
our  new  age)  is  styled  *  literary  shop.' 
For  these  reasons  I  attempt  to  convey  to 
you  some  inkling  of  the  present  state 
of  that  agreeable  art  which  you,  madam, 
raised  to  its  highest  pitch  of  perfection. 

As  to  your  own  works  (immortal,  as 
I  believe),  I  have  but  little  that  is  wholly 
cheering  to  tell  one  who,  among  women 


76       LETTERS  TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

of  letters,  was  almost  alone  in  her  free- 
dom from  a  lettered  vanity.  You  are 
not  a  very  popular  author  :  your  volumes 
are  not  found  in  gaudy  covers  on  every 
bookstall  ;  or,  if  found,  are  not  perused 
with  avidity  by  the  Emmas  and  Cathe- 
rines of  our  generation.  'Tis  not  long 
since  a  blow  was  dealt  (in  the  estimation 
of  the  unreasoning)  at  your  character  as 
an  author  by  the  publication  of  your 
familiar  letters.  The  editor  of  these 
epistles,  unfortunately,  did  not  always 
take  your  witticisms,  and  he  added  others 
which  were  too  unmistakably  his  own. 
While  the  injudicious  were  disappointed 
by  the  absence  of  your  exquisite  style 
and  humour,  the  wiser  sort  were  the 
more  convinced  of  your  wisdom.  In 
your  letters  (knowing  your  correspond- 
ents) you  gave  but  the  small  personal 
talk  of  the  hour,  for  them  sufficient  ;  for 
your  books  you  reserved  matter  and  ex- 
pression which  are  imperishable.  Your 
admirers,  if  not  very  numerous,  include 
all  persons  of  taste,  who,  in  your  favour, 


JANE  AUSTEN  77 

are  apt  somewhat  to  abate  the  rule,  or 
shake  off  the  habit,  which  commonly 
confines  them  to  but  temperate  lauda- 
tion. 

Tis  the  fault  of  all  art  to  seem  anti- 
quated and  faded  in  the  eyes  of  the  suc- 
ceeding generation.  The  manners  of 
your  age  were  not  the  manners  of  to-  day, 
and  young  gentlemen  and  ladies  who 
think  Scott  'slow,'  think  Miss  Austen 
*  prim  '  and  '  dreary.'  Yet,  even  could 
you  return  among  us,  I  scarcely  believe 
that,  speaking  the  language  of  the  hour, 
as  you  might,  and  versed  in  its  habits, 
you  would  win  the  general  admiration. 
For  how  tame,  madam,  are  your  charac- 
ters, especially  your  favourite  heroines  ! 
how  limited  the  life  which  you  knew 
and  described  !  how  narrow  the  range  of 
your  incidents  !  how  correct  your  gram- 
mar ! 

As  heroines,  for  example,  you  chose 
ladies  like  Emma,  and  Elizabeth,  and 
Catherine  :  women  remarkable  neither 
for  the  brilliance  nor  for  the  degradation 


78       LETTERS  TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

of  their  birth  ;  women  wrapped  up  in  their 
own  and  the  parish's  concerns,  ignorant 
of  evil,  as  it  seems,  and  unacquainted 
with  vain  yearnings  and  interesting 
doubts.  Who  can  engage  his  fancy  with 
their  match-makings  and  the  conduct  of 
their  affections,  when  so  many  daring 
and  dazzHng  heroines  approach  and 
solicit  his  regard  ? 

Here  are  princesses  dressed  in  white 
velvet  stamped  with  golden  fleurs-de-lys 
— ladies  with  hearts  of  ice  and  lips  of 
fire,  who  count  their  roubles  by  the  mil- 
lion, their  lovers  by  the  score,  and  even 
their  husbands,  very  often,  in  figures  of 
some  arithmetical  importance.  With 
these  are  the  immaculate  daughters  of 
itinerant  Italian  musicians — maids  whose 
souls  are  unsoiled  amidst  the  contamina- 
tions of  our  streets,  and  whose  acquaint- 
ance with  the  art  of  Phidias  and  Praxi- 
teles, of  Daedalus  and  Scopas,  is  the 
more  admirable,  because  entirely  derived 
from  loving  study  of  the  inexpensive  col- 
lections vended  by  the  plaster-of-Paris 


JANE  AUSTEN  79 

man  round  the  corner.  When  such 
h'eroines  are  wooed  by  the  nephews  of 
Dukes,  where  are  your  Emmas  and 
Elizabeths  ?  Your  volumes  neither  ex- 
cite nor  satisfy  the  curiosities  provoked 
by  that  modern  and  scientific  fiction, 
which  is  greatly  admired,  I  learn,  in  the 
United  States,  as  well  as  in  France  and 
at  home. 

You  erred,  it  cannot  be  denied,  with 
your  eyes  open.  Knowing  Lydia  and 
Kitty  so  intimately  as  you  did,  why  did 
you  make  of  them  almost  insignificant 
characters  ?  With  Lydia  for  a  heroine 
you  might  have  gone  far  ;  and,  had  you 
devoted  three  volumes,  and  the  chief  of 
your  time,  to  the  passions  of  Kitty,  you 
might  have  held  your  own,  even  now,  in 
the  circulating  library.  How  Lyddy, 
perched  on  a  corner  of  the  roof,  first 
beheld  her  Wickham  ;  how,  on  her  chal- 
lenge, he  climbed  up  by  a  ladder  to  her 
side  ;  how  they  kissed,  caressed,  swung 
on  gates  together,  met  at  odd  seasons,  in 
strange  places,  and  finally  eloped  :  all 


8o       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

this  might  have  been  put  in  the  mouth 
of  a  jealous  elder  sister,  say  Elizabeth, 
and  you  would  not  have  been  less  popu- 
lar than  several  favourites  of  our  time. 
Had  you  cast  the  whole  narrative  into 
the  present  tense,  and  lingered  lovingly 
over  the  thickness  of  Mary's  legs  and 
the  softness  of  Kitty's  cheeks,  and  the 
blonde  fluffiness  of  Wickham's  whiskers, 
you  would  have  left  a  romance  still  dear 
to  young  ladies. 

Or,  again,  you  might  entrance  fair 
students  still,  had  you  concentrated  your 
attention  on  Mrs.  Rushworth,  who  eloped 
with  Henry  Crawford.  These  should 
have  been  the  chief  figures  of  '  Mansfield 
Park.'  But  you  timidly  decline  to  tackle 
Passion.  '  Let  other  pens,'  you  write, 
'  dwell  on  guilt  and  misery.  I  quit  such 
odious  subjects  as  soon  as  I  can.'  Ah, 
there  is  the  secret  of  your  failure  !  Need 
I  add  that  the  vulgarity  and  narrowness 
of  the  social  circles  you  describe  impair 
your  popularity  ?  I  scarce  remember 
more  than  one  lady  of  title,  and  but  very 


JANE  AUSTEN  8t 

few  lords  (and  these  unessential)  in  all 
your  tales.  Now,  when  we  all  wish  to 
be  in  society,  we  demand  plenty  of  titles 
in  our  novels,  at  any  rate,  and  we  get 
lords  (and  very  queer  lords)  even  from 
Republican  authors,  born  in  a  country 
which  in  your  time  was  not  renowned 
for  its  literature.  I  have  heard  a  critic 
remark,  with  a  decided  air  of  fashion,  on 
the  brevity  of  the  notice  which  your 
characters  give  each  other  when  they 
offer  invitations  to  dinner.  '  An  invita- 
tion to  dinner  next  day  was  despatched,' 
and  this  demonstrates  that  your  ac- 
quaintance 'went  out'  very  little,  and 
had  but  few  engagements.  How  vulgar, 
too,  is  one  of  your  heroines,  who  bids 
Mr.  Darcy  '  keep  his  breath  to  cool  his 
porridge.'  I  blush  for  Elizabeth !  It  were 
superfluous  to  add  that  your  characters 
are  debased  by  being  invariably  mere 
members  of  the  Church  of  England  as 
by  law  established.  The  Dissenting  en- 
thusiast, the  open  soul  that  glides  from 

G 


82       LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

Esoteric  Buddhism  to  the  Salvation 
Army,  and  from  the  Higher  Pantheism 
to  the  Higher  Paganism,  we  look  for  in 
vain  among  your  studies  of  character. 
Nay,  the  very  words  I  employ  are  of  un- 
known sound  to  you  ;  so  how  can  you 
help  us  in  the  stress  of  the  soul's  travail- 
ings  ? 

You  may  say  that  the  soul's  travail- 
ings  are  no  affair  of  yours  ;  proving 
thereby  that  you  have  indeed  but  a 
lowly  conception  of  the  duty  of  the 
novelist.  I  only  remember  one  reference, 
in  all  your  works,  to  that  controversy 
which  occupies  the  chief  of  our  atten- 
tion— the  great  controversy  on  Creation 
or  Evolution.  Your  Jane  Bennet  cries  : 
'  I  have  no  idea  of  there  being  so  much 
Design  in  the  world  as  some  persons 
imagine.'  Nor  do  you  touch  on  our 
mighty  social  question,  the  Land  Laws, 
save  when  Mrs.  Bennet  appears  as  a 
Land  Reformer,  and  rails  bitterly  against 
the  cruelty  '  of  settling  an  estate  away 


JANE  AUSTEN  %z 

from  a  family  of  five  daughters,  In  favour 
of  a  man  whom  nobody  cared  anything 
about.'  There,  madam,  in  that  cruelly 
unjust  performancie,  what  a  text  you  had 
for  a  tendenz-rontanz.  Nay,  you  can  allow 
Kitty  to  report  that  a  Private  had  been 
flogged,  without  introducing  a  chapter  on 
Flogging  in  the  Army.  But  you  for- 
mally declined  to  stretch  your  matter  out, 
here  and  there,  *  with  solemn  specious 
nonsense  about  something  unconnected 
with  the  story.'  No  '  padding '  for  Miss 
Austen  !  In  fact,  madam,  as  you  were 
born  before  Analysis  came  in,  or  Passion, 
or  Realism,  or  Naturalism,  or  Irrever- 
ence, or  Religious  Open-mindedness,  you 
really  cannot  hope  to  rival  your  literary 
sisters  in  the  minds  of  a  perplexed 
generation.  Your  heroines  are  not  pas- 
sionate, we  do  not  see  their  red  wet 
cheeks,  and  tresses  dishevelled  in  the 
manner  of  our  frank  young  Maenads. 
What  says  your  best  successor,  a  lady 
who  adds  fresh  lustre  to    a  name  that 

G  2 


84       LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

in  fiction  equals  yours  ?  She  says  of  Miss 
Austen  :  *  Her  heroines  have  a  stamp 
of  their  own.  They  have  a  certain  geritle 
self-respect  and  humour  ajid  hardness  of 
heart.  .  .  .  Love  with  them  does  not 
mean  a  passion  as  much  as  an  interest, 
deep  and  silent'  I  think  one  prefers 
them  so,  and  that  Englishwomen  should 
be  more  like  Anne  Elliot  than  Maggie 
TuUiver.  '  All  the  privilege  I  claim  for 
my  own  sex  is  that  of  loving  longest 
when  existence  or  when  hope  is  gone,' 
said  Anne  ;  perhaps  she  insisted  on  a 
monopoly  that  neither  sex  has  all  to 
itself.  Ah,  madam,  what  a  relief  it  is  to 
come  back  to  your  witty  volumes,  and 
forget  the  follies  of  to-day  in  those  of 
Mr.  Collins  and  of  Mrs.  Bennet !  How 
fine,  nay,  how  noble  is  your  art  in  its 
delicate  reserve,  never  insisting,  never 
forcing  the  note,  never  pushing  the  sketch 
into  the  caricature !  You  worked,  with- 
out thinking  of  it,  in  the  spirit  of  Greece, 
on  a  labour  happily  limited,  and  exqui- 


JANE  AUSTEN  85 

sitely  organised.  *  Dear  books,'  we  say, 
with  Miss  Thackeray — *  dear  books, 
bright,  sparkling  with  wit  and  anima- 
tion, in  which  the  homely  heroines 
charm,  the  dull  hours  fly,  and  the  very 
bores  are  enchanting.' 


86       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 


IX. 

To  Master  Isaak  Walto7i. 

Father  Isaak, — When  I  would  be 
quiet  and  go  angling  it  is  my  custom 
to  carry  in  my  wallet  thy  pretty  book, 
'  The  Compleat  Angler.'  Here,  methinks, 
if  I  find  not  trout  I  shall  find  content, 
and  good  company,  and  sweet  songs, 
fair  milkmaids,  and  country  mirth.  For 
you  are  to  know  that  trout  be  now  scarce, 
and  whereas  he  was  ever  a  fearful  fish, 
he  hath  of  late  become  so  wary  that 
none  but  the  cunningest  anglers  may  be 
even  with  him. 

It  is  not  as  it  was  in  your  time. 
Father,  when  a  man  might  leave  his 
shop  in  Fleet  Street,  of  a  holiday,  and, 
when  he  had  stretched  his  legs  up  Tot- 
tenliam  Hill,  come  lightly  to  meadows 
chequered    with   waterlilies    and    lady- 


ISAAK  WALTON  87 

smocks,  and  so  fall  to  his  sport  Nay, 
now  have  the  houses  so  much  increased, 
like  a  spreading  sore  (through  the 
breaking  of  that  excellent  law  of  the 
Conscientious  King  and  blessed  Martyr, 
whereby  building  beyond  the  walls  was 
forbidden),  that  the  meadows  are  all 
swallowed  up  in  streets.  And  as  to  the 
River  Lea,  wherein  you  took  many  a 
good  trout,  I  read  in  the  news  sheets 
that  *  its  bed  is  many  inches  thick 
in  horrible  filth,  and  the  air  for  more 
than  half  a  mile  on  each  side  of  it 
is  polluted  with  a  horrible,  sickening 
stench,'  so  that  we  stand  in  dread  of 
a  new  Plague,  called  the  Cholera. 
And  so  it  is  all  about  London  for 
many  miles,  and  if  a  man,  at  heavy 
charges,  betake  himself  to  the  fields,  lo 
you,  folk  are  grown  so  greedy  that 
none  will  suffer  a  stranger  to  fish  in  his 
water. 

So  poor  anglers  are  in  sore  straits. 
Unless  a  man  be  rich  and  can  pay  great 
rents,  he  may  not  fish  in  England,  and 


88       LETTERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

hence  spring  the  discontents  of  the  times, 
for  the  angler  is  full  of  content,  if  he  do 
but  take  trout,  but  if  he  be  driven  from 
the  waterside,  he  falls,  perchance,  into 
evil  company,  and  cries  out  to  divide 
the  property  of  the  gentle  folk.  As 
many  now  do,  even  among  Parliament- 
men,  whom  you  loved  not,  Father  Isaak, 
neither  do  I  love  them  more  than 
Reason  and  Scripture  bid  each  of  us 
be  kindly  to  his  neighbour.  But,  be- 
hold, the  causes  of  the  ill  content  are 
not  yet  all  expressed,  for  even  where  a 
man  hath  licence  to  fish,  he  will  hardly 
take  trout  in  our  age,  unless  he  be  all 
the  more  cunning.  For  the  fish,  harried 
this  way  and  that  by  so  many  of  your 
disciples,  is  exceeding  shy  and  artful, 
nor  will  he  bite  at  a  fly  unless  it  falleth 
lightly,  just  above  his- mouth,  and  floateth 
dry  over  him,  for  all  the  world  like  the 
natural  epJiemeris  And  we  may  no 
longer  angle  with  worm  for  him,  nor 
with  penk  or  minnow,  nor  with  the 
natural    fly,  as  was   your  manner,  but 


ISAAK   WALTON  89 

only  with  the  artificial,  for  the  more 
difficulty  the  more  diversion.  For  my 
part  I  may  cry,  like  Viator  in  your 
book,  *  Master,  I  can  neither  catch  with 
the  first  nor  second  Angle :  I  have  no 
fortune.' 

So  we  fare  in  England,  but  some- 
what better  north  of  the  Tweed,  where 
trout  are  less  wary,  but  for  the  most 
part  small,  except  in  the  extreme  rough 
north,  among  horrid  hills  and  lakes. 
Thither,  Master,  as  methinks  you  may 
remember,  went  Richard  Franck,  that 
called  himself  PhilantJiropus^  and  was, 
as  it  were,  the  Columbus  of  anglers,  dis- 
covering for  them  a  new  Hyperborean 
world.  But  Franck,  doubtless,  is  now 
an  angler  in  the  Lake  of  Darkness,  with 
Nero  and  other  tyrants,  for  he  followed 
after  Cromwell,  the  man  of  blood,  in  the 
old  riding  days.  How  wickedly  doth 
Franck  boast  of  that  leader  of  the  giddy 
multitude,  '  when  they  raged,  and  be- 
came restless  to  find  out  misery  for 
themselves  and  others,  and  the  rabble 


90       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

would  herd  themselves  together,'  as  you 
said,  *  and  endeavour  to  govern  and  act 
in  spite  of  authority.'  So  you  wrote  ; 
and  what  said  Franck,  that  recreant 
angler  ?  Doth  he  not  praise  '  Ireton, 
Vane,  Nevill,  and  Martin,  and  the  most 
renowned,  valorous,  and  victorious  con- 
queror, Oliver  Cromwell '  ?  Natheless, 
with  all  his  sins  on  his  head,  this 
Franck  discovered  Scotland  for  anglers, 
and  my  heart  turns  to  him  when  he  praises 
'the  glittering  and  resolute  streams  of 
Tweed.' 

In  those  wilds  of  Assynt  and  Loch 
Rannoch,  Father,  we,  thy  followers,  may 
yet  take  trout,  and  forget  the  evils  of 
the  times.  But,  to  be  done  with  Franck, 
how  harshly  he  speaks  of  thee  and  thy 
book.  '  For  you  may  dedicate  your 
opinion  to  what  scribbling  putationer  you 
please  ;  the  Compleat  Angler  if  you  will, 
who  tells  you  of  a  tedious  fly  story, 
extravagantly  collected  from  antiquated 
authors,  such  as  Gesner  and  Dubravius.' 
Again    he    speaks   of    '  Isaac   Walton, 


ISAAK  WALTON  91 

whose  authority  to  me  seems  alike  au- 
thentick,  as  is  the  general  opinion  of 
the  vulgar  prophet,'  &c. 

Certain  I  am  that  Franck,  if  a  better 
angler  than  thou,  was  a  worse  man,  who, 
writing  his  '  Dialogues  Piscatorial '  or 
'  Northern  Memoirs  '  five  years  after  the 
world  welcomed  thy  *  Compleat  Angler,' 
was  jealous  of  thy  favour  with  the 
people,  and,  may  be,  hated  thee  for  thy 
loyalty  and  sound  faith.  But,  Master, 
like  a  peaceful  man  avoiding  conten- 
tion, thou  didst  never  answer  this 
blustering  Franck,  but  wentest  quietly 
about  thy  quiet  Lea,  and  left  him 
his  roaring  Brora  and  windy  Assynt. 
How  could  this  noisy  man  know  thee 
— and  know  thee  he  did,  having  ar- 
gued with  thee  in  Stafford — and  not 
love  Isaak  Walton  ?  A  pedant  angler, 
I  call  him,  a  plaguy  angler,  so  let 
him  huff  away,  and  turn  we  to  thee 
and  to  thy  sweet  charm  in  fishing  for 
men. 

How  often,  studying   in    thy  book, 


92       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

have  I  hummed  to  myself  that  of  Ho- 
race— 

Laudis  amove  tumes  ?  Sunt  certa  piacula  qua  te 
Ter  pure  lecto  poterunt  recreare  libello. 

So  healing  a  book  for  the  frenzy  of 
fame  is  thy  discourse  on  meadows,  and 
pure  streams,  and  the  country  life.  How 
peaceful,  men  say,  and  blessed  must 
have  been  the  life  of  this  old  man,  how 
lapped  in  content,  and  hedged  about  by 
his  own  humility  from  the  world  !  They 
forget,  who  speak  thus,  that  thy  years, 
which  were  many,  were  also  evil,  or 
would  have  seemed  evil  to  divers  that 
had  tasted  of  thy  fortunes.  Thou  wert 
poor,  but  that,  to  thee,  was  no  sorrow, 
for  greed  of  money  was  thy  detestation. 
Thou  wert  of  lowly  rank,  in  an  age 
when  gentle  blood  was  alone  held  in 
regard  ;  yet  thy  virtues  made  thee  hosts 
of  friends,  and  chiefly  among  religious 
men,  bishops,  and  doctors  of  the  Church. 
Thy  private  life  was  not  unacquainted 
with  sorrow ;  thy  first  wife  and  all  her 
fair  children  were  taken  from  thee  like 


ISAAK   WALTON  93 

flowers  in  spring,  though,  in  thine  age, 
new  love  and  new  offspring  comforted 
thee  like  'the  primrose  of  the  later 
year.'  Thy  private  griefs  might  have 
made  thee  bitter,  or  melancholy,  so 
might  the  sorrows  of  the  State  and  of 
the  Church,  which  were  deprived  of  their 
heads  by  cruel  men,  despoiled  of  their 
wealth,  the  pious  driven,  like  thee,  from 
their  homes  ;  fear  everywhere,  every- 
where robbery  and  confusion  :  all  this 
ruin  might  have  angered  another  temper. 
But  thou.  Father,  didst  bear  all  with 
so  much  sweetness  as  perhaps  neither 
natural  temperament,  nor  a  firm  faith, 
nor  the  love  of  angling  could  alone  have 
displayed.  For  we  see  many  anglers  (as 
witness  Richard  Franck  aforesaid)  who 
are  angry  men,  and  myself,  when  I  get 
my  hooks  entangled  at  every  cast  in  a 
tree,  have  come  nigh  to  swear  prophane. 
Also  we  see  religious  men  that  are 
sour  and  fanatical,  no  rare  thing  in 
the  party  that  professes  godliness.  But 
neither  private  sorrow  nor  public  grief 


94       LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

could  abate  thy  natural  kindliness,  nor 

shake  a  religion  which  was  not  untried, 

but    had,   indeed,   passed    through   the 

furnace  like  fine  gold.     For  if  we  find 

not  Faith  at  all  times  easy,  because  of 

the    oppositions   of    Science,    and    the 

searching    curiosity    of     men's     minds, 

neither   was    Faith  a  matter   of  course 

in  thy  day.     For  the  learned  and  pious 

were  greatly  tossed  about,   like  worthy 

Mr.  Chillingworth,  by  doubts  wavering 

between  the  Church  of   Rome  and  the 

Reformed    Church    of    England.     The 

humbler   folk,   also,    were    invited,  now 

here,    now   there,   by   the   clamours    of 

fanatical    Nonconformists,     who     gave 

themselves  out  to  be  somebody,  while 

Atheism  itself  was  not    without   many 

to   witness    to    it.     Therefore,    such    a 

religion  as  thine  was  not,  so  to  say,  a 

mere  innocence  of  evil  in  the  things  of 

our  Belief,  but  a  reasonable  and  grounded 

faith,  strong  in  despite   of  oppositions. 

Happy  was  the  man  in  whom  temper, 

and  religion,  and  the  love  of  the  sweet 


ISAAC    WALTON  95 

country  and  an  angler's  pastime  so  con- 
veniently combined  ;  happy  the  long  life 
which  held  in  its  hand  that  threefold 
clue  through  the  labyrinth  of  human 
fortunes !  Around  thee  Church  and 
State  might  fall  in  ruins,  and  might  be 
rebuilded,  and  thy  tears  would  not  be 
bitter,  nor  thy  triumph  cruel. 

Thus,  by  God's  blessing,  it  befell 
thee 

Nee  turpem  senectam 
Degere,  nee  eithara  earentetn. 

I  would.  Father,  that  I  could  get  at 
the  verity  about  thy  poems.  Those  recom- 
mendatory verses  with  which  thou  didst 
grace  the  Lives  of  Dr.  Donne  and  others 
of  thy  friends,  redound  more  to  the  praise 
of  thy  kind  heart  than  thy  fancy.  But 
what  or  whose  was  the  pastoral  poem 
of  '  Thealma  and  Clearchus,'  which  thou 
didst  set  about  printing  in  1678,  and 
gavest  to  the  world  in  1683  }  Thou 
gavest  John  Chalkhill  for  the  author's 
name,  and  a  John  Chalkhill  of  thy  kin- 
dred died  at  Winchester,  being  eighty 


96       LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

years  of  his  age,  in  1679.  Now  thou 
speakest  of  John  Chalkhill  as  '  a  friend 
of  Edmund  Spenser's,'  and  how  could 
this  be  ? 

Are  they  right  who  hold  that  John 
Chalkhill  was  but  a  name  of  a  friend, 
borrowed  by  thee  out  of  modesty,  and 
used  as  a  cloak  to  cover  poetry  of  thine 
own  inditing  ?  When  Mr.  Flatman 
writes  of  Chalkhill,  'tis  in  words  well 
fitted  to  thine  own  merit : 

Happy  old  man,  whose  worth  all  mankind  knows 
Except  himself,  who  charitably  shows 
The  ready  road  to  virtue  and  to  praise, 
The  road  to  many  long  and  happy  days. 

However  it  be,  in  that  road,  by  quiet 
streams  and  through  green  pastures, 
thou  didst  walk  all  thine  almost  century 
of  years,  and  we,  who  stray  into  thy 
path  out  of  the  highway  of  life,  we 
seem  to  hold  thy  hand,  and  listen  to 
thy  cheerful  voice.  If  our  sport  be 
worse,  may  our  content  be  equal,  and 
our  praise,  therefore,  none  the  less. 
Father,  if  Master  Stoddard,   the   great 


ISAAC    WALTON  97 

fisher  of  Tweedside,  be  with  thee,  greet 
him  for  me,  and  thank  him  for  those 
songs  of  his,  and  perchance  he  will  troll 
thee  a  catch  of  our  dear  River. 

Tweed  !    winding   and    wild  !    where    the    heart   is 

unbound, 
They   know    not,     they    dream     not,     who     linger 

around, 
How   the    saddened   will    smile,    and    the    wasted 

rewin 
From  thee -the  bliss  withered  within. 

Or  perhaps  thou  wilt  better  love, 

The  lanesome  Tala  and  the  Lyne, 

And  Manor  wi'  its  mountain  rills, 
An'  Etterick,  whose  waters  twine 

Wi'  Yarrow  frae  the  forest  hills ; 
An'  Gala,  too,  and  Teviot  bright, 

An'  mony  a  stream  o'  playfu'  speed, 
Their  kindred  valleys  a'  unite 

Amang  the  braes  o'  bonnie  Tweed  ! 

So,  Master,  may  you  sing  against  each 
other,  you  two  good  old  anglers,  like 
Peter  and  Corydon,  that  sang  in  your 
golden  age. 


H 


LETTERS    TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 


To  M.  Chapelain. 

Monsieur, — You  were  a  popular 
poet,  and  an  honourable,  over-educated, 
upright  gentleman.  Of  the  latter  cha- 
racter you  can  never  be  deprived,  and 
I  doubt  not  it  stands  you  in  better 
stead  where  you  are,  than  the  laurels 
which  flourished  so  gaily,  and  faded  so 
soon. 

Laurel  is  green  for  a  season,  and  Love  is  fair  for 
a  day, 

But  Love  grows  bitter  with  treason,  and  laurel  out- 
lives not  May. 

I  know  not  if  Mr.  Swinburne  is  cor- 
rect in  his  botany,  but  your  laurel  cer- 
tainly outlived  not  May,  nor  can  we 
hope  that  you  dwell  where  Orpheus  and 
where  Homer  are.  Some  other  crown, 
some  other  Paradise,  we  cannot   doubt 


CHAPELAIN  99 

it,  awaited  un  si  bon  hoinnie.  But  the 
moral  excellence  that  even  Boileau  ad- 
mitted, la  foi,  rhonneur,  la  probite,  do 
not  in  Parnassus  avail  the  popular  poet, 
and  some  luckless  Glatigny  or  Theophile, 
Regnier  or  Gilbert,  attains  a  kind  of 
immortality  denied  to  the  man  of  many 
contemporary  editions,  and  of  a  great 
commercial  success. 

If  ever,  for  the  confusion  of  Horace, 
any  Poet  was  Made,  you.  Sir,  should 
have  been  that  fortunately  manufac- 
tured article.  You  were,  in  matters  of 
the  Muses,  the  child  of  many  prayers. 
Never,  since  Adam's  day,  have  any 
parents  but  yours  prayed  for  a  poet- 
child.  Then  Dertiny,  that  mocks  the 
desires  of  men  in  general,  and  fathers  in 
particular,  heard  the  appeal,  and  pre- 
sented M.  Chapelain  and  Jeanne  Cor- 
biere  his  wife  with  the  future  author  of 
*  La  Pucelle.'  Oh  futile  hopes  of  men, 
O  pectora  cceca !  All  was  done  that 
education  could  do  for  a  genius  which, 
among  other  qualities,  '  especially  lacked 

H  2 


lOO     LETTERS   TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 

fire  and  imagination,'  and  an  ear  for 
verse  — sad  defects  these  in  a  child  of 
the  Muses.  Your  training  in  all  the 
mechanics  and  metaphysics  of  criticism 
might  have  made  you  exclaim,  like 
Rasselas,  '  Enough  !  Thou  hast  con- 
vinced me  that  no  human  being  can 
ever  be  a  Poet.'  Unhappily,  you  suc- 
ceeded in  convincing  Cardinal  Richelieu 
that  to  be  a  Poet  was  well  within  your 
powers,  you  received  a  pension  of  one 
thousand  crowns,  and  were  made  Cap- 
tain of  the  Cardinal's  Minstrels,  as  M. 
de  Trdville  was  Captain  of  the  King's 
Musketeers. 

Ah,  pleasant  age  to  live  in,  when 
good  intentions  in  poetry  were  more 
richly  endowed  than  ever  is  Research 
even  Research  in  Prehistoric  English, 
among  us  niggard  moderns  !  How  I 
wish  I  knew  a  Cardinal,  or  even,  as  you 
did,  a  Prime  Minister,  who  would  praise 
and  pension  me  ;  but  Envy  be  still !  Your 
existence  was  made  happy  indeed  ;  you 
constructed  odes,  corrected  sonnets,  pre- 


CHAPELAIN  loi 

sided  at  the  Hotel  Rambouillet,  while  the 
learned  ladies  were  still  young  and  fair, 
and  you  enjoyed  a  prodigious  celebrity 
on  the  score  of  your  yet  unpublished 
Epic.  '  Who,  indeed,'  says  a  sympathe- 
tic author,  M.  Theophile  Gautier,  '  who 
could  expect  less  than  a  miracle  from  a 
man  so  deeply  learned  in  the  laws  of  art 
— a  perfect  Turk  in  the  science  of  poetry, 
a  person  so  well  pensioned,  and  so 
favoured  by  the  great  ? '  Bishops  and 
politicians  combined  in  perfect  good  faith 
to  advertise  your  merits.  Hard  must 
have  been  the  heart  that  could  resist 
the  testimonials  of  your  skill  as  a  poet 
offered  by  the  Due  de  Montausier,  and 
the  learned  Huet,  Bishop  of  Avranches, 
and  Monseigneur  Godeau,  Bishop  of 
Vence,  and  M.  Colbert,  who  had  such  a 
genius  for  finance. 

If  bishops  and  politicians  and  Prime 
Ministers  skilled  in  finance,  and  some 
critics  (Menage  and  Sarrazin  and  Vau- 
gelas),  if  ladies  of  birth  and  taste,  if  all 
the  world  in  fact,  combined  to  tell  you 


102     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

that  you  were  a  great  poet,  how  can  we 
blame  you  for  taking  yourself  seriously, 
and  appraising  yourself  at  the  public 
estimate? 

It  was  not  in  human  nature  to  resist 
the  evidence  of  the  bishops  especially, 
and  when  every  minor  poet  believes  in 
himself  on  the  testimony  of  his  own  con- 
ceit, you  may  be  acquitted  of  vanity  if 
you  listened  to  the  plaudits  of  your 
friends.  Nay,  you  ventured  to  pronounce 
judgment  on  contemporaries  whom  Pos- 
terity has  preferred  to  your  perfections. 
'Moliere,'  said  you,  *  understands  the 
genius  of  comedy,  and  presents  it  in  a 
natural  style.  The  plot  of  his  best  pieces 
is  borrowed,  but  not  without  judgment  ; 
his  morale  is  fair,  and  he  has  only  to 
avoid  scurrility.' 

Excellent,  unconscious,  popular  Cha- 
pelain  ! 

Of  yourself  you  observed,  in  a  Re- 
port on  contemporary  literature,  that 
your  *  courage  and  sincerity  never  al- 
lowed   you   to    tolerate   work    not   ab- 


CHAPELAIN  103 

solutely  good.'     And  yet  you  regarded 
'■  La  Pucelle  '  with  some  complacency. 

On  the  *  Pucelle '  you  were  occupied 
during  a  generation  of  mortal  men.  I 
marvel  not  at  the  length  of  your  labours, 
as  you  received  a  yearly  pension  till  the 
Epic  was  finished,  but  your  Muse  was  no 
Alcmena,  and  no  Hercules  was  the  re- 
sult of  that  prolonged  night  of  creation. 
First  you  gravely  wrote  out  all  the  com- 
position in  prose  :  the  task  occupied  you 
for  five  whole  years.  Ah,  why  did  you 
not  leave  it  in  that  commonplace  but 
appropriate  medium  t  What  says  the 
Precieuse  about  you  in  Boileau's  satire  ? 

In  Chapelain,  for  all  his  foes  have  said, 

She  finds  but  one  defect,  he  can't  be  read  ; 

Yet  thinks  the  world  might  taste  his  Maiden's  woes. 

If  only  he  would  turn  his  verse  to  prose  ! 

The  verse  had  been  prose,  and  prose, 
perhaps,  it  should  have  remained.  Yet 
for  this  precious  '  Pucelle,'  in  the  age 
when  *  Paradise  Lost '  was  sold  for  five 
pounds,  you  are  believed  to  have  received 
about  four  thousand.    Horace  was  wrong. 


I04     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

mediocre  poets  may  exist  (now  and  then), 
and  he  was  a  wise  man  who  first  spoke 
of  aiirea  mediocritas.  At  length  the 
great  work  was  achieved,  a  work  thrice 
blessed  in  its  theme,  that  divine  Maiden 
to  whom  France  owes  all,  and  whom 
you  and  Voltaire  have  recompensed  so 
strangely.  In  folio,  in  italics,  with  a 
score  of  portraits  and  engravings,  and 
cuts  de  larnpe,  the  great  work  was  given 
to  the  world,  and  had  a  success.  Six 
editions  in  eighteen  months  are  figures 
which  fill  the  poetic  heart  with  envy  and 
admiration.  And  then,  alas  !  the  bubble 
burst.  A  great  lady,  Madame  de  Longue- 
ville,  hearing  the  '  Pucelle '  read  aloud, 
murmured  that  it  was  'perfect  indeed, 
but  perfectly  wearisome.'  Then  the 
satires  began,  and  the  satirists  never 
left  you  till  your  poetic  reputation 
was  a  rag,  till  the  mildest  Abbe  at 
Menage's  had  his  cheap  sneer  for  Cha- 
pelain. 

I  make  no  doubt.  Sir,  that  envy  and 
jealousy  had  much  to  do  with  the  on- 


CHAPELAIN  105 

slaught  on  your  '  Pucelle.'  These  quali- 
ties, alas !  are  not  strange  to  literary 
minds ;  does  not  even  Hesiod  tell  us 
that  '  potter  hates  potter,  and  poet  hates 
poet '  ?  But  contemporary  spites  do  not 
harm  true  genius.  Who  suffered  more 
than  Moliere  from  cabals  ?  Yet  neither 
the  court  nor  the  town  ever  deserted 
him,  and  he  is  still  the  joy  of  the  world. 
I  admit  that  his  adversaries  were  weaker 
than  yours.  What  were  Boursault  and 
Le  Boulanger,  and  Thomas  Corneille  and 
De  Vis^,  what  were  they  all  compared  to 
your  enemy,  Boileau  ?  Brossette  tells  a 
story  which  really  makes  a  man  pity  you. 
You  remember  M.  de  Puimorin,  who,  to 
be  in  the  fashion,  laughed  at  your  once 
popular  Epic.  '  It  is  all  very  well,'  said 
you, '  for  a  man  to  laugh  who  cannot  even 
read.'  Whereon  M.  de  Puimorin  replied  : 
*  Qu'il  n'avoit  que  trop  su  lire,  depuis 
que  Chapelain  s'etoit  avise  de  faire  im- 
primer.'  A  new  horror  had  been  added 
to  the  accomplishment  of  reading  since 
Chapelain  had  published.    This  repartee 


io6     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

was  applauded,  and  M.  de  Puimorin  tried 
to  turn  it  into  an  epigram.  He  did  com- 
plete the  last  couplet, 

Helas  !  pour  mes  peches,  je  n'ai  su  que  trop  lire 
Depuis  que  tu  fais  imprimer. 

But  by  no  labour  would  M.  de  Pui- 
morin achieve  the  first  two  lines  of  his 
epigram.  Then  you  remember  what 
great  allies  came  to  his  assistance.  I 
almost  blush  to  think  that  M.  Despreaux, 
M.  Racine,  and  M.  de  Moliere,  the  three 
most  renowned  wits  of  the  time,  con- 
spired to  complete  the  poor  jest,  and 
assail  you.  Well,  bubble  as  your 
poetry  was,  you  may  be  proud  that  it 
needed  all  these  sharpest  of  pens  to 
prick  the  bubble.  Other  poets,  as  popu- 
lar as  you,  have  been  annihilated  by  an 
article.  Macaulay  put  forth  his  hand, 
and  '  Satan  Montgomery '  was  no  more. 
It  did  not  need  a  Macaulay,  the  laughter 
of  a  mob  of  little  critics  was  enough  to 
blow  him  into  space  ;  but  you  probably 
have  met  Montgomery,  and  of  contempo- 
rary failures  or  successes  I  do  not  speak. 


CHAPELAIN  107 

I  wonder,  sometimes,  whether  the  con- 
sensus of  criticism  ever  made  you  doubt 
for  a  moment  whether,  after  all,  you  were 
not  a  false  child  of  Apollo?  Was  your 
complacency  tortured,  as  the  compla- 
cency of  true  poets  has  occasionally  been, 
by  doubts  ?  Did  you  expect  posterity 
to  reverse  the  verdict  of  the  satirists, 
and  to  do  you  justice  ?  You  answered 
your  earliest  assailant,  Liniere,  and,  by 
a  few  changes  of  words,  turned  his  epi- 
grams into  flattery.  But  I  fancy,  on 
the  whole,  you  remained  calm,  unmoved, 
wrapped  up  in  admiration  of  yourself.  Ac- 
cording to  M.  de  Marivaux,  who  reviewed, 
as  I  am  doing,  the  spirits  of  the  mighty 
dead,  you  *  conceived,  on  the  strength  of 
your  reputation,  a  great  and  serious 
veneration  for  yourself  and  your  genius.* 
Probably  you  were  protected  by  the  in- 
vulnerable armour  of  an  honest  vanity, 
probably  you  declared  that  mere  jealousy 
dictated  the  lines  of  Boileau,  and  that 
Chapelain's  real  fault  was  his  popularity, 
and  his  pecuniary  success, 

Qu'il  soit  le  mieux  rente  de  tous  les  beaux-esprits. 


io8     LETTERS    TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 

This,  you  would  avow,  was  your 
offence,  and  perhaps  you  were  not  alto- 
gether mistaken.  Yet  posterity  declines 
to  read  a  line  of  yours,  and,  as  we  think 
of  you,  we  are  again  set  face  to  face  with 
that  eternal  problem,  how  far  is  popu- 
larity a  test  of  poetry?  Burns  was  a 
poet :  and  popular.  Byron  was  a  popular 
poet,  and  the  world  agrees  in  the  verdict 
of  their  own  generations.  But  Mont- 
gomery, though  he  sold  so  well,  was  no 
poet,  nor,  Sir,  I  fear,  was  your  verse 
made  of  the  stuff  of  immortality.  Cri- 
ticism cannot  hurt  what  is  truly  great ; 
the  Cardinal  and  the  Academy  left 
Chimene  as  fair  as  ever,  and  as  adorable. 
It  is  only  pinchbeck  that  perishes  under 
the  acids  of  satire :  gold  defies  them. 
Yet  I  sometimes  ask  myself,  does  the 
existence  of  popularity  like  yours  justify 
the  malignity  of  satire,  which  blesses 
neither  him  who  gives,  nor  him  who 
takes  ?  Are  poisoned  arrows  fair  against 
a  bad  poet?  I  doubt  it,  Sir,  holding 
that,  even   unpricked,  a   poetic  bubble 


CHAPEL  A  IN  109 

must  soon  burst  by  its  own  nature.  Yet 
satire  will  assuredly  be  written  so  long 
as  bad  poets  are  successful,  and  bad 
poets  will  assuredly  reflect  that  their 
assailants  are  merely  envious,  and  (while 
their  vogue  lasts)  that  the  purchasing 
public  is  the  only  judge.  After  all,  the 
bad  poet  who  is  popular  and  '  sells '  is 
not  a  whit  worse  than  the  bad  poets  who 
are  unpopular,  and  who  deride  his  songs. 
Monsieur, 
Votre  tres-humble  serviteur,  &c. 


10     LETTERS   TO   DEAD  AUTHORS 


XL 

To  Sir  John  Maundeville,  Kt. 

(OF  THE  WAYS  INTO  YNDE.) 

Sir  John,— Wit  you  well  that  men 
holden  you  but  light,  and  some  clepen 
you  a  Liar.  And  they  say  that  you 
never  were  born  in  Englond,  in  the  town 
of  Seynt  Albones,  nor  have  seen  and  gone 
through  manye  diverse  Londes.  And 
there  goeth  an  old  knight  at  arms,  and 
one  that  connes  Latyn,  and  hath  been 
beyond  the  sea,  and  hath  seen  Prester 
John's  country.  And  he  hath  been  in 
an  Yle  that  men  clepen  Burmah,  and 
there  bin  women  bearded.  Now  men 
call  him  Colonel  Henry  Yule,  and  he 
hath  writ  of  thee  in  his  great  booke,  Sir 
John,  and  he  holds  thee  but  lightly.  For 
he  saith  that  ye  did  pill  your  tales  out 


5/A'  JOHN  MAUNDEVILLE  iii 

of  Odoric  his  book,  and  that  ye  never 
saw  snails  with  shells  as  big  as  houses, 
nor  never  met  no  Devyls,  but  part  of 
that  ye  say,  ye  took  it  out  of  William  of 
Boldensele  his  book,  yet  ye  took  not 
his  wisdom,  withal,  but  put  in  thine  own 
foolishness.  Nevertheless,  Sir  John,  for 
the  frailty  of  Mankynde,  ye  are  held  a 
good  fellow,  and  a  merry  ;  so  now,  come, 
let  me  tell  you  of  the  new  ways  into 
Ynde. 

In  that  Lond  they  have  a  Queen 
that  governeth  all  the  Lond,  and  all 
they  ben  obeyssant  to  her.  And  she  is 
the  Queen  of  Englond  ;  for  Englishmen 
have  taken  all  the  Lond  of  Ynde.  For 
they  were  right  good  werryoures  of  old, 
and  wyse,  noble,  and  worthy.  But  of 
late  hath  risen  a  new  sort  of  Englishman 
very  puny  and  fearful,  and  these  men 
clepen  Radicals.  And  they  go  ever  in 
fear,  and  they  scream  on  high  for  dread 
in  the  streets  and  the  houses,  and  they 
fain  would  flee  away  from  all  that  their 
fathers  gat  them  with  the  sword.     And 


112     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

this  sort  men  call  Scuttleres,  but  the 
mean  folk  and  certain  of  the  baser  sort 
hear  them  gladly,  and  they  say  ever  that 
Englishmen  should  flee  out  of  Ynde. 

Fro  Englond  men  gon  to  Ynde  by 
many  dy verse  Contreyes.  For  English- 
men ben  very  stirring  and  nymble.  For 
they  ben  in  the  seventh  climate,  that  is 
of  the  Moon.  And  the  Moon  (ye  have 
said  it  yourself,  Sir  John,  natheless,  is  it 
true)  is  of  lightly  moving,  for  to  go  di- 
verse ways,  and  see  strange  things,  and 
other  diversities  ofthe  Worlde.  Where- 
fore Englishmen  be  lightly  moving,  and 
far  wandering.  And  they  gon  to  Ynde 
by  the  great  Sea  Ocean.  First  come 
they  to  Gibraltar,  that  was  the  point  of 
Spain,  and  builded  upon  a  rock  ;  and 
there  ben  apes,  and  it  is  so  strong  that 
no  man  may  take  it.  Natheless  did 
Englishmen  take  it  fro  the  Spanyard, 
and  all  to  hold  the  way  to  Ynde.  For 
ye  may  sail  all  about  Africa,  and  past 
the  Cape  men  clepen  of  Good  Hope, 
but  that  way  unto  Ynde  is  long  and  the 


SIR  JOHN  MA  UNDE  VILLE  1 1 3 

sea  is  weary.  Wherefore  men  rather  go 
by  the  Midland  sea,  and  Englishmen 
have  taken  many  Yles  in  that  sea. 

For  first  they  have  taken  an  Yle  that 
is  clept  Malta  ;  and  therein  built  they 
great  castles,  to  hold  it  against  them  of 
Fraunce,  and  Italy,  and  of  Spain.  And 
from  this  He  of  Malta  Men  gon  to 
Cipre.  And  Cipre  is  right  a  good  Yle, 
and  a  fair,  and  a  great,  and  it  hath  4 
principal  Cytees  within  him.  And  at 
Famagost  is  one  of  the  principal  Havens 
of  the  sea  that  is  in  the  world,  and 
Englishmen  have  but  a  lytel  while  gone 
won  that  Yle  from  the  Sarazynes.  Yet 
say  that  sort  of  Englishmen  where  of  I 
told  you,  that  is  puny  and  sore  adread, 
that  the  Lond  is  poisonous  and  barren 
and  of  no  avail,  for  that  Lond  is  much 
more  hotter  than  it  is  here.  Yet  the 
Englishmen  that  ben  werryoures  dwell 
there  in  tents,  and  the  skill  is  that  they 
may  ben  the  more  fresh. 

From  Cypre,  Men  gon  to  the  Lond 
of  Egypte,  and  in  a  Day  and  a  Night 

I 


114     LETTERS   TO   DEAD  AUTHORS 

he  that  hath  a  good  wind  may  come  to 
the  Haven  of  Alessandrie.  Now  the 
Lond  of  Egypt  longeth  to  the  Soudan, 
yet  the  Soudan  longeth  not  to  the  Lond 
of  Egypt.  And  when  I  say  this,  I  do 
jape  with  words,  and  may  hap  ye  under- 
stond  me  not  Now  Englishmen  went 
in  shippes  to  Alessandrie,  and  brent  it, 
and  over  ran  the  Lond,  and  their  soud- 
yours  warred  agen  the  Bedoynes,  and 
all  to  hold  the  way  to  Ynde.  For  it  is 
not  long  past  since  Frenchmen  let  dig 
a  dyke,  through  the  narrow  spit  of  lond, 
from  the  Midland  sea  to  the  Red  sea, 
wherein  was  Pharaoh  drowned.  So  this 
is  the  shortest  way  to  Ynde  there  may 
be,  to  sail  through  that  dyke,  if  men  gon 
by  sea. 

But  all  the  Lond  of  Egypt  is  clepen 
the  Vale  enchaunted  ;  for  no  man  may 
do  his  business  well  that  goes  thither, 
but  always  fares  he  evil,  and  therefore 
clepen  they  Egypt  the  Vale  perilous, 
and  the  sepulchre  of  reputations.  And 
men  say  there  that  is  one  of  the  entrees 


S/Ji  JOHN  MA  UNDE  VILLE  1 1 5 

of  Helle.  In  that  Vale  is  plentiful  lack 
of  Gold  and  Silver,  for  many  misbe- 
lieving men,  and  many  Christian  men 
also,  have  gone  often  time  for  to  take 
of  the  Thresoure  that  there  was  of  old, 
and  have  pilled  the  Thresoure,  wherefore 
there  is  none  left.  And  Englishmen 
have  let  carry  thither  great  store  of  our 
Thresoure,  9,000,000  of  Pounds  sterling, 
and  whether  they  will  see  it  agen  I  mis- 
doubt me.  For  that  Vale  is  alle  fulle 
of  Develes  and  Fiendes  that  men  clepen 
Bondholderes,  for  that  Egypt  from  of  olde 
is  the  Lond  of  Bondage.  And  whatso- 
ever Thresoure  cometh  into  the  Lond, 
these  Devyls  of  Bondholders  grabben 
the  same.  Natheless  by  that  Vale  do 
Englishmen  go  unto  Ynde,  and  they 
gon  by  Aden,  even  to  Kurrachee,  at  the 
mouth  of  the  Flood  of  Ynde.  Thereby 
they  send  their  souldyours,  when  they 
are  adread  of  them  of  Muscovy. 

For,  look  you,  there  is  another  way 
into  Ynde,  and  thereby  the  men  of  Mus- 
covy are  fain  to  come,  if  the  Englishmen 

I  2 


ii6     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

let  them  not.  That  way  cometh  by  De- 
sert and  Wildernesse,  from  the  sea  that 
is  clept  Caspian,  even  to  Khiva,  and  so 
to  Merv  ;  and  then  come  ye  to  Zulfikar 
and  Penjdeh,  and  anon  to  Herat,  that  is 
called  the  Key  of  the  Gates  of  Ynde. 
Then  ye  win  the  lond  of  the  Emir  of 
the  Afghauns,  a  great  prince  and  a  rich, 
and  he  hath  in  his  Thresoure  more 
crosses,  and  stars,  and  coats  that  captains 
wearen,  than  any  other  man  on  earth. 

For  all  they  of  Muscovy,  and  all 
Englishmen  maken  him  gifts,  and  he 
keepeth  the  gifts,  and  he  keepeth  his 
own  counsel.  For  his  lond  lieth  be 
tween  Ynde  and  the  folk  of  Mus- 
covy, wherefore  both  Englishmen  and 
men  of  Muscovy  would  fain  have  him 
friendly,  yea,  and  independent.  Where- 
fore they  of  both  parties  give  him  clocks, 
and  watches,  and  stars,  and  crosses,  and 
culverins,  and  now  and  again  they  let 
cut  the  throats  of  his  men  some  deal, 
and  pill  his  country. .  Thereby  they  both 
set  up  their  rest  that  the  Emir  will  be 


SIR  JOHN  MA  UNDE  VJLLE  1 1 7 

independent,  yea,  and  friendly.  But  his 
men  love  him  not,  neither  love  they 
the  English,  nor  the  Muscovy  folk,  for 
they  are  worshippers  of  Mahound,  and 
endure  not  Christian  men.  And  they 
love  not  them  that  cut  their  throats,  and 
burn  their  country. 

Now  they  of  Muscovy  ben  Devyls, 
and  they  ben  subtle  for  to  make  a  thing 
seme  otherwise  than  it  is,  for  to  deceive 
mankind.  Wherefore  Englishmen  putten 
no  trust  in  them  of  Muscovy,  save  only 
the  Englishmen  clept  Radicals,  for  they 
make  as  if  they  loved  these  Develes,  out 
of  the  fear  and  dread  of  war  wherein 
they  go,  and  would  be  slaves  sooner 
than  fight.  But  the  folk  of  Ynde  know 
not  what  shall  befall,  nor  whether  they  of 
Muscovy  will  take  the  Lond,  or  English- 
men shall  keep  it,  so  that  their  hearts 
may  not  enduren  for  drede.  And  me- 
thinks  that  soon  shall  Englishmen  and 
Muscovy  folk  put  their  bodies  in  adven- 
ture, and  war  one  with  another,  and  all 
for  the  way  to  Ynde. 


ii8     LETTERS   TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 

But  St.  George  for  Englond,  I  say, 
and  so  enough  ;  and  may  the  Seyntes 
hele  thee,  Sir  John,  of  thy  Gowtes  Arte- 
tykes,  that  thee  tormenten.  But  to  thy 
Boke  i  list  not  to  give  no  credence. 


119 


XII. 

To  Alexandre  Dumas. 

Sir, — There  are  moments  when  the 
wheels  of  Hfe,  even  of  such  a  life  as 
yours,  run  slow,  and  when  mistrust  and 
doubt  overshadow  even  the  most  intrepid 
disposition.  In  such  a  moment,  towards 
the  ending  of  your  days,  you  said  to 
your  son,  M.  Alexandre  Dumas,  '  I  seem 
to  see  myself  set  on  a  pedestal  which 
trembles  as  if  it  were  founded  on  the 
sands.'  These  sands,  your  uncounted 
volumes,  are  all  of  gold,  and  make  a 
foundation  more  solid  than  the  rock. 
As  well  might  the  singer  of  Odysseus, 
or  the  authors  of  the  '  Arabian  Nights,' 
or  the  first  inventors  of  the  stories  of 
Boccaccio,  believe  that  their  works  were 
perishable  (their  names,  indeed,  have 
perished),  as  the  creator  of  '  Les  Trois 


120     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

Mousquetaires'^  alarm  himself  with  the 
thought  that  the^  world  could  ever  forget 
Alexandre  Dumas. 

Than  yours  there  has  been  no  greater 
nor  more  kindly  and  beneficent  force  in 
modern  letters.  To  Scott,  indeed,  you 
owed  the  first  impulse  of  your  genius  ; 
but,  once  set  in  motion,  what  miracles 
could  it  not  accomplish?  Our  dear 
Porthos  was  overcome,  at  last,  by  a  super- 
human burden  ;  but  your  imaginative 
strength  never  found  a  task  too  great  for 
it.  What  an  extraordinary  vigour,  what 
health,  what  an  overflow  of  force  was 
yours  !  It  is  good,  in  a  day  of  small 
and  laborious  ingenuities,  to  breathe  the 
free  air  of  your  books,  and  dwell  in  the 
company  of  Dumas's  men — so  gallant, 
so  frank,  so  indomitable,  such  swords- 
men, and  such  trenchermen.  Like  M. 
de  Rochefort  in  '  Vingt  Ans  Apres,'  like 
that  prisoner  of  the  Bastille,  your  genius 
*  n'est  que  d'un  parti,  c'est  du  parti  du 
grand  air.' 

There  seems  to  radiate  from  you  a 


ALEXANDRE  DUMAS  121 

still  persistent  energy  and  enjoyment  ; 
in  that  current  of  strength  not  only  your 
characters  live,  frolic,  kindly,  and  sane, 
but  even  your  very  collaborators  were 
animated  by  the  virtue  which  went  out 
of  you.  How  else  can  we  explain  it, 
the  dreary  charge  which  feeble  and  en- 
vious tongues  have  brought  against  you, 
in  England  and  at  home?  They  say 
you  employed  in  your  novels  and  dramas 
that  vicarious  aid  which,  in  the  slang  of 
the  studio,  the  *  sculptor's  ghost '  is  fabled 
to  afford. 

Well,  let  it  be  so  ;  these  ghosts,  when 
uninspired  by  you,  were  faint  and  im- 
potent as  '  the  strengthless  tribes  of  the 
dead '  in  Homer's  Hades,  before  Odys- 
seus had  poured  forth  the  blood  that 
gave  them  a  momentary  valour.  It  was 
from  you  and  your  inexhaustible  vitality 
that  these  collaborating  spectres  drew 
what  life  they  possessed ;  and  when 
they  parted  from  you  they  shuddered 
back  into  their  nothingness.  Where  are 
the   plays,  where   the  romances   which 


122     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Maquet  and  the  rest  wrote  in  their  own 
strength  ?  They  are  forgotten  with  last 
year's  snows  ;  they  have  passed  into  the 
wide  waste-paper  basket  of  the  world. 
You  say  of  D'Artagnan,  when  severed 
from  his  three  friends — from  Porthos, 
Athos,  and  Aramis— *he  felt  that  he 
could  do  nothing,  save  on  the  condition 
that  each  of  these  companions  yielded 
to  him,  if  one  may  so  speak,  a  share  of 
that  electric  fluid  which  was  his  gift  from 
heaven.' 

No  man  of  letters  ever  had  so  great 
a  measure  of  that  gift  as  you  ;  none 
gave  of  it  more  freely  to  all  who  came 
— to  the  chance  associate  of  the  hour, 
as  to  the  characters,  all  so  burly  and  full- 
blooded,  who  flocked  from  your  brain. 
Thus  it  was  that  you  failed  when  you 
approached  the  supernatural.  Your 
ghosts  had  too  much  flesh  and  blood,  more 
than  the  living  persons  of  feebler  fancies. 
A  writer  so  fertile,  so  rapid,  so  masterly 
in  the  ease  with  which  he  worked,  could 
not  escape  the  reproaches  of  barren  envy. 


ALEXANDRE  DUMAS  123 

Because  you  overflowed  with  wit,  you 
could  not  be  *  serious  ; '  because  you 
created  with  a  word,  you  were  said  to 
scamp  your  work ;  because  you  were 
never  dull,  never  pedantic,  incapable 
of  greed,  you  were  to  be  censured  as 
desultory,  inaccurate,  and  prodigal. 

A  generation  suffering  from  mental 
and  physical  anaemia — a  generation  de- 
voted to  the  'chiselled  phrase,'  to  ac- 
cumulated *  documents,'  to  microscopic 
porings  over  human  baseness,  to  minute 
and  disgustful  records  of  what  in  hu- 
manity is  least  human — may  readily 
bring  these  unregarded  and  railing  ac- 
cusations. Like  one  of  the  great  and 
good-humoured  Giants  of  Rabelais,  you 
may  hear  the  murmurs  from  afar,  and 
smile  with  disdain.  To  you,  who  can 
amuse  the  world — to  you  who  offer  it 
the  fresh  air  of  the  highway,  the  battle- 
field, and  the  sea  —  the  world  must  always 
return  :  escaping  gladly  from  the  bou- 
doirs and  the  bouges,  from  the  surge- 
ries and  hospitals,  and  dead  rooms,  of 


124     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

M.  Daudet  and  M.  Zola  and  of  the  weari- 
some De  Goncourt. 

With  all  your  frankness,  and  with 
that  queer  morality  of  the  Camp  which, 
if  it  swallows  a  camel  now  and  again, 
never  strains  at  a  gnat,  how  healthy  and 
wholesome,  and  even  pure,  are  your  ro- 
mances !  You  never  gloat  over  sin,  nor 
dabble  with  an  ugly  curiosity  in  the 
corruptions  of  sense.  The  passions  in 
your  tales  are  honourable  and  brave,  the 
motives  are  clearly  human.  Honour, 
Love,  Friendship  make  the  threefold 
cord,  the  clue  your  knights  and  dames 
follow  through  how  delightful  a  la- 
byrinth of  adventures  !  Your  greatest 
books,  I  take  the  liberty  to  maintain,  are 
the  Cycle  of  the  Valois  (*  La  Reine  Mar- 
got,'  *  La  Dame  de  Montsoreau,'  '  Les 
Quarante-cinq  '),  and  the  Cycle  of  Louis 
Treize  and  Louis  Quatorze  ('  Les  Trois 
Mousquetaires,'  *  Vingt  Ans  Apres,'  '  Le 
Vicomte  de  Bragelonne  ') ;  and,  beside 
these  two  trilogies — a  lonely  monument, 
like  the  sphinx  hard  by  the  three  pyra- 
mids— '  Monte  Cristo.' 


ALEXANDRE  DUMAS  125 

In  these  romances  how  easy  it  would 
have  been  for  you  to  burn  incense  to 
that  great  goddess,  Lubricity,  whom  our 
critic  says  your  people  worship.  You 
had  Brantome,  you  had  Tallemant,  you 
had  Retif,  and  a  dozen  others,  to  furnish 
materials  for  scenes  of  voluptuousness 
and  of  blood  that  would  have  outdone 
even  the  present  naturalistes.  From 
these  alcoves  of  *  Les  Dames  Galantes,' 
and  from  the  torture  chambers  (M.  Zola 
would  not  have  spared  us  one  starting 
sinew  of  brave  La  Mole  on  the  rack) 
you  turned,  as  Scott  would  have  turned, 
without  a  thought  of  their  profitable 
literary  uses.  You  had  other  metal  to 
work  on :  you  gave  us  that  superstitious 
and  tragical  true  love  of  La  Mole's,  that 
devotion — how  tender  and  how  pure  ! — 
of  Bussy  for  the  Dame  de  Montsoreau. 
You  gave  us  the  valour  of  D'Artagnan, 
the  strength  of  Porthos,  the  melancholy 
nobility  of  Athos  :  Honour,  Chivalry,  and 
Friendship.  I  declare  your  characters 
are  real  people  to  me  and  old  friends.     I 


126     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

cannot  bear  to  read  the  end  of '  Brage- 
lonne,'  and  to  part  with  them  for  ever. 
*  Suppose  Porthos,  Athos,  and  Aramis 
should  enter  with  a  noiseless  swagger, 
curling  their  moustaches.'  How  we  would 
welcome  them,  forgiving  D'Artagnan  even 
hish3itefu\ /oil rderie in  the  case  of  Milady. 
The  brilliance  of  your  dialogue  has  never 
been  approached :  there  is  wit  every- 
where ;  repartees  glitter  and  ring  like 
the  flash  and  clink  of  small-swords. 
Then  what  duels  are  yours  !  and  what 
inimitable  battle-pieces !  I  know  four 
good  fights  of  one  against  a  multitude, 
in  literature.  These  are  the  Death  of 
Gretir  the  Strong,  the  Death  of  Gunnar 
of  Lithend,  the  Death  of  Hereward  the 
Wake,  the  Death  of  Bussy  d'Amboise. 
We  can  compare  the  strokes  of  the 
heroic  fighting-times  with  those  de- 
scribed in  later  days  ;  and,  upon  my 
word,  I  do  not  know  that  the  short  sword 
of  Gretir,  or  the  bill  of  Skarphedin,  or 
the  bow  of  Gunnar  was  better  wielded 
than  the    rapier  of  your  Bussy  or  the 


ALEXANDRE  DUMAS  127 

sword  and  shield  of  Kingsley's  Here- 
ward. 

They  say  your  fencing  is  unhistorical ; 
no  doubt  it  is  so,  and  you  knew  it.  La 
Mole  could  not  have  lunged  on  Coconnas 
'  after  deceiving  circle  ; '  for  the  parry 
was  not  invented  except  by  your  im- 
mortal Chicot,  a  genius  in  advance  of 
his  time.  Even  so  Hamlet  and  Laertes 
would  have  fought  with  shields  and  axes, 
not  with  small  swords.  But  what  mat- 
ters this  pedantry  }  In  your  works  we 
hear  the  Homeric  Muse  again,  rejoicing 
in  the  clash  of  steel ;  and  even,  at  times, 
your  very  phrases  are  unconsciously 
Homeric. 

Look  at  these  men  of  murder,  on  the 
Eve  of  St.  Bartholomew,  who  flee  in  ter- 
ror from  the  Queen's  chamber,  and  '  find 
the  door  too  narrow  for  their  flight  : '  the 
very  words  were  anticipated  in  a  line  of 
the  *  Odyssey '  concerning  the  massacre 
of  the  Wooers.  And  the  picture  of  Cathe- 
rine de  Medicis,  prowling  *  like  a  wolf 
among  the  bodies  and  the  blood,'  in  a 


128     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

passage  of  the  Louvre — the  picture  is 
taken  unwittingly  from  the  '  Iliad.' 
There  was  in  you  that  reserve  of  pri- 
mitive force,  that  epic  grandeur  and 
simplicity  of  diction.  Tliis  is  the  force 
that  animates  '  Monte  Cristo/  the  earlier 
chapters,  the  prison,  and  the  escape.  In 
later  volumes  of  that  romance,  methinks, 
you  stoop  your  wing.  Of  your  dramas 
I  have  little  room,  and  less  skill,  to 
speak.  '  Antony,'  they  tell  me,  was  *  the 
greatest  literary  event  of  its  time,'  was  a 
restoration  of  the  stage.  '  While  Victor 
Hugo  needs  the  cast-off  clothes  of  his- 
tory, the  wardrobe  and  costume,  the 
sepulchre  of  Charlemagne,  the  ghost 
of  Barbarossa,  the  coffins  of  Lucretia 
Borgia,  Alexandre  Dumas  requires  no 
more  than  a  room  in  an  inn,  where 
people  meet  in  riding  cloaks,  to  move 
the  soul  with  the  last  degree  of  terror 
and  of  pity.' 

The  reproach  of  being  amusing  has 
somewhat  dimmed  your  fame — for  a 
moment.     The  shadow  of  this  tyranny 


ALEXANDRE  DUMAS  129 

will  soon  be  overpast ;  and  when  ^  La 
Curee' and  '  Pot-Bouille '  are  more  for- 
gotten than  *  Le  Grand  Cyrus,'  men  and 
women— and,  above  all,  boys — will  laugh 
and  weep  over  the  page  of  Alexandre 
Dumas.  Like  Scott  himself,  you  take 
us  captive  in  our  childhood.  I  remem- 
ber a  very  idle  little  boy  who  was  busy 
with  the  *  Three  Musketeers '  when  he 
should  have  been  occupied  with  '  Wil- 
kins's  Latin  Prose.'  *  Twenty  years 
after'  (alas!  and  more)  he  is  still  con- 
stant to  that  gallant  company  ;  and,  at 
this  very  moment,  is  breathlessly  won- 
dering whether  Grimaud  will  steal  M.  de 
Beaufort  out  of  the  Cardinal's  prison. 


K 


I30     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 


XIII. 
To  Theocritus. 

*  Sweet,  methinks,  is  the  whispering 
sound  of  yonder  pine-tree,'  so,  Theo- 
critus, with  that  sweet  word  ahv,  didst 
thou  begin  and  strike  the  keynote  of  thy 
songs.  '  Sweet,'  and  didst  thou  find 
aught  of  sweet,  when  thou,  Hke  thy 
Daphnis,  didst  '  go  down  the  stream, 
when  the  whirHng  wave  closed  over  the 
man  the  Muses  loved,  the  man  not 
hated  of  the  Nymphs '  ?  Perchance 
below  those  waters  of  death  thou  didst 
find,  like  thine  own  Hylas,  the  lovely 
Nereids  waiting  thee,  Elinice,  and  Malis, 
and  Nycheia  with  her  April  eyes.  In 
the  House  of  Hades,  Theocritus,  doth 
there  dwell  aught  that  is  fair,  and  can 
the  low  light  on  the  fields  of  asphodel 
make   thee    forget   thy    Sicily?      Nay, 


THEOCRITUS  131 

methinks  thou  hast  not  forgotten,  and 
perchance  for  poets  dead  there  is  pre- 
pared a  place  more  beautiful  than  their 
dreams.  It  was  well  for  the  later  min- 
strels of  another  day,  it  was  well  for 
Ronsard  and  Du  Bellay  to  desire  a  dim 
Elysium  of  their  own,  where  the  sun- 
light comes  faintly  through  the  shadow 
of  the  earth,  where  the  poplars  are 
duskier,  and  the  waters  more  pale  than 
in  the  meadows  of  Anjou. 

There,  in  that  restful  twilight,  far  re- 
mote from  war  and  plot,  from  sword  and 
fire,  and  from  religions  that  sharpened 
the  steel  and  lit  the  torch,  there  these 
learned  singers  would  fain  have  wandered 
with  their  learned  ladies,  satiated  with 
life  and  in  love  with  an  unearthly  quiet. 
But  to  thee,  Theocritus,  no  twilight  of 
the  Hollow  Land  was  dear,  but  the  high 
suns  of  Sicily  and  the  brown  cheeks  of 
the  country  maidens  were  happiness 
enough.  For  thee,  therefore,  methinks, 
surely  is  reserved  an  Elysium  beneath 
the  summer   of    a  far-off  system,  with 

K  2 


132     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

stars  not  ours  and  alien  seasons.     There, 
as  Bion  prayed,  shall  Spring,  the  thrice 
desirable,  be  with  thee  the  whole  year 
through,  where    there    is    neither    frost, 
nor  is  the  heat  so  heavy  on  men,  but  all 
is  fruitful,  and  all  sweet  things  blossom, 
and    evenly   meted    are    darkness    and 
dawn.      Space   is    wide,    and    there   be 
many  worlds,  and  suns  enow,  and  the 
Sun-god  surely  has  had  a  care  of  his 
own.      Little  didst   thou    need,  in    thy 
native  land,  the  isle  of  the  three  capes, 
little  didst  thou  need  but  sunlight  on 
land  and  sea.     Death  can  have  shown 
thee   naught  dearer  than    the  fragrant 
shadow    of    the    pines,   where   the   dry 
needles  of  the  fir  are  strewn,  or  glades 
where  feathered    ferns    make  '  a   couch 
more  soft  than  Sleep.'     The  short  grass 
of  the  cliffs,  too,  thou  didst  love,  where 
thou  wouldst  lie,  and  watch,  with  the 
tunny    watcher   till    the  deep  blue    sea 
was  broken   by  the  burnished  sides  of 
the  tunny  shoal,  and  afoam  with  their 
gambols  in  the  brine.     There  the  Mu^es 


THEOCRITUS  133 

met  thee,  and  the  Nymphs,  and  there 
Apollo,  remembering  his  old  thraldom 
with  Admetus,  would  lead  once  more 
a  mortal's  flocks,  and  listen  and  learn, 
Theocritus,  while  thou,  like  thine  own 
Comatas,  *  didst  sweetly  sing.' 

There,  methinks,  I  see  thee  as  in  thy 
happy  days,  '  reclined  on  deep  beds  of 
fragrant  lentisk,  lowly  strewn,  and  re- 
joicing in  new  stript  leaves  of  the  vine, 
while  far  above  thy  head  waved  many  a 
poplar,  many  an  elm-tree,  and  close  at 
hand  the  sacred  waters  sang  from  the 
mouth  of  the  cavern  of  the  nymphs.' 
And  when  night  came,  methinks  thou 
wouldst  flee  from  the  merry  company 
and  the  dancing  girls,  from  the  fading 
crowns  of  roses  or  white  violets,  from 
the  cottabos,  and  the  minstrelsy,  and 
the  Bibline  wine,  from  these  thou 
wouldst  slip  away  into  the  summer 
night.  Then  the  beauty  of  life  and  of 
the  summer  would  keep  thee  from  thy 
couch,  and  wandering  away  from  Syra- 
cuse by  the  sandhills  and  the  sea,  thou 


134     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

wouldst  watch  the  low  cabin,  roofed 
with  grass,  where  the  fishing-rods  ot 
reed  were  leaning  against  the  door, 
while  the  Mediterranean  floated  up  her 
waves,  and  filled  the  waste  with  sound. 
There  didst  thou  see  thine  ancient  fisher- 
men rising  ere  the  dawn  from  their 
bed  of  dry  seaweed,  and  heardst  them 
stirring,  drowsy,  among  their  fishing 
gear,  and  heardst  them  tell  their  dreams. 
Or  again  thou  wouldst  wander  with 
dusty  feet  through  the  ways  that  the 
dust  makes  silent,  while  the  breath  of 
the  kine,  as  they  were  driven  forth  with 
the  morning,  came  fresh  to  thee,  and  the 
trailing  dewy  branch  of  honeysuckle 
struck  sudden  on  thy  cheek.  Thou 
wouldst  see  the  Dawn  awake  in  rose 
and  saffron  across  the  waters,  and  Etna, 
grey  and  pale  against  the  sky,  and  the 
setting  crescent  would  dip  strangely  in 
the  glow,  on  her  way  to  the  sea.  Then, 
methinks,  thou  wouldst  murmur,  like 
thine  own  Simaetha,  the  love-lorn  witch, 
'  Farewell,  Selene,  bright  and  fair  ;  fare- 


THEOCRITUS  135 

well,  ye  other  stars,  that  follow  the 
wheels  of  the  quiet  Night'  Nay,  surely 
it  was  in  such  an  hour  that  thou  didst 
behold  the  girl  as  she  burned  the  laurel 
leaves  and  the  barley  grain,  and  melted 
the  waxen  image,  and  called  on  Selene 
to  bring  her  lover  home.  Even  so,  even 
now,  in  the  islands  of  Greece,  the  set- 
ting Moon  may  listen  to  the  prayers  of 
maidens.  '  Bright  golden  Moon,  that 
now  art  near  the  waters,  go  thou  and 
salute  my  lover,  he  that  stole  my  love, 
and  that  kissed  me,  saying  "Never  will  I 
leave  thee."  And  lo,  he  hath  left  me  as 
men  leave  a  field  reaped  and  gleaned, 
like  a  church  where  none  cometh  to 
pray,  like  a  city  desolate.' 

So  the  girls  still  sing  in  Greece,  for 
though  the  Temples  have  fallen,  and  the 
wandering  shepherds  sleep  beneath  the 
broken  columns  of  the  god's  house  in 
Selinus,  yet  these  ancient  fires  burn  still 
to  the  old  divinities  in  the  shrines  of  the 
hearths  of  the  peasants.  It  is  none  of 
the  new  creeds  that  cry,  in  the  dirge  of 


136     LETTERS   TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 

the  Sicilian  shepherds  of  our  time,  '  Ah, 
light  of  mine  eyes,  what  gift  shall  I  send 
thee,  what  offering  to  the  other  world  ? 
The  apple  fadeth,  the  quince  decayeth, 
and  one  by  one  they  perish,  the  petals 
of  the  rose.  I  will  send  thee  my  tears 
shed  on  a  napkin,  and  what  though  it 
burneth  in  the  flame,  if  my  tears  reach 
thee  at  the  last.' 

Yes,  little  is  altered,  Theocritus,  on 
these  shores  beneath  the  sun,  where  thou 
didst  wear  a  tawny  skin  stripped  from 
the  roughest  of  he-goats,  and  about  thy 
breast  an  old  cloak  buckled  with  a 
plaited  belt.  Thou  wert  happier  there, 
in  Sicily,  methinks,  and  among  vines 
and  shadowy  lime-trees  of  Cos,  than  in 
the  dust,  and  heat,  and  noise  of  Alex- 
andria. What  love  of  fame,  what  lust 
of  gold  tempted  thee  away  from  the  red 
cliffs,  and  grey  olives,  and  wells  of  black 
water  wreathed  with  maidenhair  ? 


The  music  of  thy  rustic  flute 
Kept  not  for  long  its  happy  country  tone  ; 
Lost  it  too  soon,  and  learned  a  stormy  note 


THEOCRITUS  137 

Of  men  contention  tost,  of  men  who  groan, 

Which  tasked  thy  pipe  too  sore,  and  tired  thy  throat — 
It  failed,  and  thou  wast  mute  ! 

What  hadst  thoii  to  make  in  cities, 
and  what  could  Ptolemies  and  Princes 
give  thee  better  than  the  goat-milk 
cheese  and  the  Ptelean  wine?  Thy 
Muses  were  meant  to  be  the  delight 
of  peaceful  men,  not  of  tyrants  and 
wealthy  merchants,  to  whom  they  vainly 
went  on  a  begging  errand.  'Who  will 
open  his  door  and  gladly  receive  our 
Muses  within  his  house,  who  is  there 
that  will  not  send  them  back  again 
without  a  gift  ?  And  they  with  naked 
feet  and  looks  askance  come  home- 
wards, and  sorely  they  upbraid  me  when 
they  have  gone  on  a  vain  journey,  and 
listless  again  in  the  bottom  of  their 
empty  coffer  they  dwell  with  heads 
bowed  over  their  chilly  knees,  where 
is  their  drear  abode,  when  portionless 
they  return.'  How  far  happier  was 
the  prisoned  goat-herd,  Comatas,  in  the 
fragrant   cedar  chest  where  the  blunt- 


138      LETTERS    TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

faced  bees  from  the  meadow  fed  him 
with  food  of  tender  flowers,  because 
still  the  Muse  dropped  sweet  nectar 
on  his  lips ! 

Thou  didst  leave  the  neat-herds  and 
the  kine,  and  the  oaks  of  Himera,  the 
galingale  hummed  over  by  the  bees,  and 
the  pine  that  dropped  her  cones,  and 
Amaryllis  in  her  cave,  and  Bombyca 
with  her  feet  of  carven  ivory.  Thou 
soughtest  the  City,  and  strife  with  other 
singers,  and  the  learned  write  still  on 
thy  quarrels  with  ApoUonius  and  Calli- 
machus,  and  Antagoras  of  Rhodes.  So 
ancient  are  the  hatreds  of  poets,  envy, 
jealousy,  and  all  unkindness. 

Not  to  the  wits  of  Courts  couldst 
thou  teach  thy  rural  song,  though  all 
these  centuries,  more  than  two  thousand 
years,  they  have  laboured  to  vie  with 
thee.  There  has  come  no  new  pastoral 
poet,  though  Virgil  copied  thee,  and  Pope, 
and  Phillips,  and  all  the  buckram  band 
of  the  teacup  time;  and  all  the  modish 
swains  of  France  have  sung  against  thee, 


THEOCRITUS  139 

as  the  sow  challenged  Athene.  They 
never  knew  the  shepherd's  life,  the  long 
winter  nights  on  dried  heather  by  the 
fire,  the  long  summer  days,  when  over 
the  parched  grass  all  is  quiet,  and  only 
the  insects  hum,  and  the  shrunken  burn 
whispers  a  silver  tune.  Swains  in  high- 
heeled  shoon,  and  lace,  shepherdesses  in 
rouge  and  diamonds,  the  world  is  weary 
of  all  concerning  them,  save  their  images 
in  porcelain,  effigies  how  unlike  thy 
golden  figures,  dedicate  to  Aphrodite, 
of  Bombyca  and  Battus  !  Somewhat, 
Theocritus,  thou  hast  to  answer  for, 
thou  that  first  of  men  brought  the 
shepherd  to  Court,  and  made  courtiers 
wild  to  go  a  Maying  with  the  shepherds. 


140     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 


XIV. 

To  Edgar  Allan  Poe. 

Sir, — Your  English  readers,  better 
acquainted  with  your  poems  and  ro- 
mances than  with  your  criticisms,  have 
long  wondered  at  the  indefatigable  hatred 
which  pursues  your  memory.  You,  who 
knew  the  men,  will  not  marvel  that  cer- 
tain microbes  of  letters,  the  survivors  of 
your  own  generation,  still  harass  your 
name  with  their  malevolence,  while  old 
women  twitter  out  their  incredible  and 
unheeded  slanders  in  the  literary  papers 
of  New  York.  But  their  persistent 
animosity  does  not  quite  suffice  to 
explain  the  dislike  with  which  many 
American  critics  regard  the  greatest  poet, 
perhaps  the  greatest  literary  genius,  of 
their  country.  With  a  commendable 
patriotism,  they  are  not  apt  to  rate  native 


EDGAR  ALLAN  FOE  141 

merit  too  low  ;  and  you,  I  think,  are 
the  only  example  of  an  American  pro- 
phet almost  without  honour  in  his  own 
country. 

The  recent  publication  of  a  cold, 
careful,  and  in  many  respects  admirable 
study  of  your  career  ('  Edgar  Allan 
Poe,'  by  George  Woodberry  :  Houghton, 
Mifflin  and  Co.,  Boston)  reminds  Eng- 
lish readers  who  have  forgotten  it,  and 
teaches  those  who  never  knew  it,  that 
you  were,  unfortunately,  a  Reviewer. 
How  unhappy  were  the  necessities,  how 
deplorable  the  vein,  that  compelled  or 
seduced  a  man  of  your  eminence  into 
the  dusty  and  stony  ways  of  contempo- 
rary criticism  !  About  the  writers  of  his 
own  generation  a  leader  of  that  gene- 
ration should  hold  his  peace.  He  should 
neither  praise  nor  blame  nor  defend  his 
equals  ;  he  should  not  strike  one  blow  at 
the  buzzing  ephemerae  of  letters.  The 
breath  of  their  life  is  in  the  columns  ot 
*  Literary  Gossip  ; '  and  they  should  be 
allowed  to  perish  with  the  weekly  adver- 


142      LETTERS    TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 

tisements  on  which  they  pasture.  Re- 
viewing, of  course,  there  must  needs 
be  ;  but  great  minds  should  only  criticise 
the  great  who  have  passed  beyond  the 
reach  of  eulogy  or  fault-finding. 

Unhappily,  taste  and  circumstances 
combined  to  make  you  a  censor  ;  you 
vexed  a  continent,  and  you  are  still 
unforgiven.  What '  irritation  of  a  sensi- 
tive nature,  chafed  by  some  indefinite 
sense  of  wrong,'  drove  you  (in  Mr.  Long- 
fellow's own  words)  to  attack  his  pure 
and  beneficent  Muse  we  may  never 
ascertain.  But  Mr.  Longfellow  forgave 
you  easily  ;  for  pardon  comes  easily  to 
the  great.  It  was  the  smaller  men,  the 
Daweses,  Griswolds,  and  the  like,  that 
knew  not  how  to  forget.  '  The  New 
Yorkers  never  forgave  him,'  says  your 
latest  biographer  ;  and  one  scarcely  mar- 
vels at  the  inveteracy  of  their  malice. 
It  was  not  individual  vanity  alone,  but 
the  whole  literary  class  that  you  assailed. 
*As  a  literary  people,'  you  wrote,  'we 
are   one   vast   perambulating   humbug.' 


EDGAR   ALLAN  FOE  143 

After  that  declaration  of  war  you  died, 
and  left  your  reputation  to  the  vanities 
yet  writhing  beneath  your  scorn.  They 
are  writhing  and  writing  still.  He  who 
knows  them  need  not  linger  over  the 
attacks  and  defences  of  your  personal 
character ;  he  will  not  waste  time  on 
calumnies,  tale-bearing,  private  letters, 
and  all  the  noisome  dust  which  takes  so 
long  in  settling  above  your  tomb. 

For  us  it  is  enough  to  know  that 
you  were  compelled  to  live  by  your  pen, 
and  that  in  an  age  when  the  author  of 
'  To  Helen  '  and  '  The  Cask  of  Amontil- 
lado '  was  paid  at  the  rate  of  a  dollar  a 
column.  When  such  poverty  was  the 
mate  of  such  pride  as  yours,  a  misery  more 
deep  than  that  of  Burns,  an  agony  longer 
than  Chatterton's,  were  inevitable  and 
assured.  No  man  was  less  fortunate 
than  you  in  the  moment  of  his  birth — 
infelix  opportunitaie  vitce.  Had  you  lived 
a  generation  later,  honour,  wealth,  ap- 
plause, success  in  Europe  and  at  home, 
would   all   have    been    yours.      Within 


144      LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

thirty  years  so  great  a  change  has  passed 
over  the  profession  of  letters  in  Ame- 
rica ;  and  it  is  impossible  to  estimate 
the  rewards  which  would  have  fallen  to 
Edgar  Poe,  had  chance  made  him  the 
contemporary  of  Mark  Twain  and  of 
'  Called  Back'  It  may  be  that  your 
criticisms  helped  to  bring  in  the  new 
era,  and  to  lift  letters  out  of  the  reach 
of  quite  unlettered  scribblers.  Though 
not  a  scholar,  at  least  you  had  a  respect 
for  scholarship.  You  might  still  marvel 
over  such  words  as  '  objectional '  in  the 
new  biography  of  yourself,  and  might 
ask  what  is  meant  by  such  a  sentence 
as  '  his  connection  with  it  had  inured  to 
his  own  benefit  by  the  frequent  puffs  of 
himself,'  and  so  forth. 

Best  known  in  your  own  day  as  a 
critic,  it  is  as  a  poet  and  a  writer  of 
short  tales  that  you  must  live.  But  to 
discuss  your  few  and  elaborate  poems 
is  a  waste  of  time,  so  completely  does 
your  own  brief  definition  of  poetry,  *  the 
rhythmic  creation  of  the  beautiful,'  ex- 


EDGAR  ALLAN  FOE  145 

haust  your  theory,  and  so  perfectly  is 
the  theory  illustrated  by  the  poems. 
Natural  bent,  and  reaction  against  the 
example  of  Mr.  Longfellow,  combined 
to  make  you  too  intolerant  of  what 
you  call  the  '  didactic '  element  in  verse. 
Even  if  morality  be  not  seven-eighths 
of  our  life  (the  exact  proportion  as  at 
present  estimated),  there  was  a  place 
even  on  the  Hellenic  Parnassus  for 
gnomic  bards,  and  theirs  in  the  nature 
of  the  case  must  always  be  the  largest 
public. 

'  Music  is  the  perfection  of  the  soul 
or  the  idea  of  poetry,'  so  you  wrote  ; 
'  the  vagueness  of  exaltation  aroused  by 
a  sweet  air  (which  should  be  indefinite 
and  never  too  strongly  suggestive)  is 
precisely  what  we  should  aim  at  in 
poetry.'  You  aimed  at  that  mark,  and 
struck  it  again  and  again,  notably  in 
*  Helen,  thy  beauty  is  to  me,'  in  '  The 
Haunted  Palace,' '  The  Valley  of  Unrest,' 
and  '  The  City  in  the  Sea.'  But  by  some 
Nemesis    which    might,    perhaps,   have 

I. 


146     LETTERS   TO   DEAD  AUTHORS 

been  foreseen,  you  are,  to  the  world,  the 
poet  of  one  poem — '  The  Raven  : '  a 
piece  in  which  the  music  is  highly  arti- 
ficial, and  the  '  exaltation  '  (what  there 
is  of  it)  by  no  means  particularly  'vague.' 
So  a  portion  of  the  public  know  little  of 
Shelley  but  the  '  Skylark,'  and  those  two 
incongruous  birds,  the  lark  and  the  raven, 
bear  each  of  them  a  poet's  name,  vivu' 
per  ora  virum.  Your  theory  of  poetry, 
if  accepted,  would  make  you  (after  the 
author  of  '  Kubla  Khan  ')  the  foremost 
of  the  poets  of  the  world  ;  at  no  long 
distance  would  come  Mr.  William  Morris 
as  he  was  when  he  wrote  *  Golden  Wings,' 
'  The  Blue  Closet,'  and  '  The  Sailing  of 
the  Sword  ; '  and,  close  up,  Mr.  Lear,  the 
author  of  'The  Yongi  Bongi  Bo,'  and 
the  lay  of  the  '  Jumblies.' 

On  the  other  hand  Homer  would 
sink  into  the  limbo  to  which  you  con- 
signed Moliere.  If  we  may  judge  a 
theory  by  its  results,  when  compared 
with  the  deliberate  verdict  of  the  world, 
your   aesthetic    does   not   seem  to  hold 


EDGAR  ALLAN  FOE  147 

water.  The  'Odyssey'  is  not  really 
inferior  to  '  Ulalume/  as  it  ought  to  be 
if  your  doctrine  of  poetry  were  correct, 
nor  '  Le  Festin  de  Pierre  '  to  *  Undine.' 
Yet  you  deserve  the  praise  of  having 
been  constant,  in  your  poetic  practice, 
to  your  poetic  principles  —  principles 
commonly  deserted  by  poets  who,  like 
Wordsworth,  have  published  their  aesthe- 
tic system.  Your  pieces  are  few  ;  and 
Dr.  Johnson  would  have  called  you,  like 
Fielding,  '  a  barren  rascal.'  But  how 
can  a  writer's  verses  be  numerous  if 
with  him,  as  with  you,  '  poetry  is  not  a 
pursuit  but  a  passion  .  .  .  which  can- 
not at  will  be  excited  with  an  eye  to  the 
paltry  compensations  or  the  more  paltry 
commendations  of  mankind  ! '  Of  you 
it  may  be  said,  more  truly  than  Shelley 
said  it  of  himself,  that  '  to  ask  you  for 
anything  human,  is  like  asking  at  a  gin- 
shop  for  a  leg  of  mutton.' 

Humanity  must  always  be,  to  the 
majority  of  men,  the  true  stuff  of  poetry  ; 
and  only  a  minority  will  thank  you  for 

L  2 


148      LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

that  rare  music  which  (like  the  strains 
of  the  fiddler  in  the  story)  is  touched  on 
a  single  string,  and  on  an  instrument 
fashioned  from  the  spoils  of  the  grave. 
You  chose,  or  you  were  destined 

To  vary  from  the  kindly  race  of  men  ; 

and  the  consequences,  which  wasted  your 
life,  pursue  your  reputation. 

For  your  stories  has  been  reserved 
a  boundless  popularity,  and  that  highest 
success— the  success  of  a  perfectly  sym- 
pathetic translation.  By  this  time,  of 
course,  you  have  made  the  acquaintance 
of  your  translator,  M.  Charles  Baudelaire, 
who  so  strenuously  shared  your  views 
about  Mr.  Emerson  and  the  Transcen- 
dentalists,  and  who  so  energetically 
resisted  all  those  ideas  of  '  progress ' 
which  '  came  from  Hell  or  Boston.'  On 
this  point,  however,  the  world  continues 
to  differ  from  you  and  M.  Baudelaire, 
and  perhaps  there  is  only  the  choice 
between  our  optimism  and  universal 
suicide  or  universal  opium-eating.     But 


EDGAR   ALLAN  FOE  149 

to  discuss  your  ultimate  ideas  is  perhaps 
a  profitless  digression  from  the  topic  of 
your  prose  romances. 

An  English  critic  (probably  a  North- 
erner at  heart)  has  described  them  as 
'  Hawthorne  and  delirium  tremens.'  I 
am  not  aware  that  extreme  orderliness, 
masterly  elaboration,  and  unchecked 
progress  towards  a  predetermined  ef- 
fect are  characteristics  of  the  visions  of 
delirium.  If  they  be,  then  there  is  a 
deal  of  truth  in  the  criticism,  and  a  good 
deal  of  delirium  tremens  in  your  style. 
But  your  ingenuity,  your  completeness, 
your  occasional  luxuriance  of  fancy  and 
wealth  of  jewel- like  words,  are  not,  per- 
haps, gifts  which  Mr.  Hawthorne  had  at 
his  command.  He  was  a  great  writer — 
the  greatest  writer  in  prose  fiction  whom 
America  has  produced.  But  you  and 
he  have  not  much  in  common,  except  a 
certain  mortuary  turn  of  mind  and  a 
taste  for  gloomy  allegories  about  the 
workings  of  conscience. 

I  forbear  to  anticipate  your  verdict 


ISO     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

about  the  latest  essays  of  American 
fiction.  These  by  no  means  follow  in 
the  lines  which  you  laid  down  about 
brevity  and  the  steady  working  to  one 
single  effect.  Probably  you  would  not 
be  very  tolerant  (tolerance  was  not 
your  leading  virtue)  of  Mr.  Roe,  now 
your  countrymen's  favourite  novelist. 
He  is  long,  he  is  didactic,  he  is  emi- 
nently uninspired.  In  the  works  of  one 
who  is,  what  you  were  called  yourself,  a 
Bostonian,  you  would  admire,  at  least, 
the  acute  observation,  the  subtlety,  and 
the  unfailing  distinction.  But,  destitute 
of  humour  as  you  unhappily  but  unde- 
niably were,  you  would  miss,  I  fear,  the 
charm  of  *  Daisy  Miller.'  You  would 
admit  the  unity  of  effect  secured  in 
'  Washington  Square,'  though  that  effect 
is  as  remote  as  possible  from  the  terror 
of  '  The  House  of  Usher '  or  the  vindic- 
tive triumph  of  '  The  Cask  of  Amontil- 
lado.' 

Farewell,  farewell,  thou  sombre  and 
solitary  spirit :  a  genius  tethered  to  the 


EDGAR  ALLAN  POE  151 

hack-work  of  the  press,  a  gentleman 
among  canaille^  a  poet  among  poetasters, 
dowered  with  a  scholar's  taste  without 
a  scholar's  training,  embittered  by  his 
sensitive  scorn,  and  all  unsupported  by 
his  consolations. 


152      LETTERS  TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 


XV. 

To  Sir  Walter  Scott,  Bart. 

Rodono,  St.  Mary's  Loch  : 
Sept.  8,  1885. 

Sir, — In  your  biography  it  is  recorded 
that  you  not  only  won  the  favour  of  all 
men  and  women  ;  but  that  a  domestic 
fowl  conceived  an  affection  for  you,  and 
that  a  pig,  by  his  will,  had  never  been 
severed  from  your  company.  If  some 
Circe  had  repeated  in  my  case  her  fa- 
vourite miracle  of  turning  mortals  into 
swine,  and  had  given  me  a  choice,  into 
that  fortunate  pig,  blessed  among  his 
race,  would  I  have  been  converted !  You, 
almost  alone  among  men  of  letters,  still, 
like  a  living  friend,  win  and  charm  us 
out  of  the  past ;  and  if  one  might  call 
up  a  poet,  as  the  scholiast  tried  to  call 
Homer,  from  the  shades,  who  would  not, 


SIR    WALTER  SCOTT  153 

out  of  all  the  rest,  demand  some  hours 
of  your  society  ?  Who  that  ever  med- 
dled with  letters,  what  child  of  the  irrit- 
able race,  possessed  even  a  tithe  of  your 
simple  manliness,  of  the  heart  that  never 
knew  a  touch  of  jealousy,  that  envied 
no  man  his  laurels,  that  took  honour 
and  wealth  as  they  came,  but  never 
would  have  deplored  them  had  you 
missed  both  and  remained  but  the  Bor- 
der sportsman  and  the  Border  antiquary  ? 
Were  the  word  '  genial '  not  so  much 
profaned,  were  it  not  misused  in  easy 
good-nature,  to  extenuate  lettered  and 
sensual  indolence,  that  worn  old  term 
might  be  applied,  above  all  men,  to  *  the 
Shirra.'  But  perhaps  we  scarcely  need 
a  word  (it  would  be  seldom  in  use)  for  a 
character  so  rare,  or  rather  so  lonely,  in 
its  nobility  and  charm  as  that  of  Walter 
Scott.  Here,  in  the  heart  of  your  own 
country,  among  your  own  grey  round- 
shouldered  hills  (each  so  like  the  other 
that  the  shadow  of  one  falling  on  its 
neighbour  exactly  outlines  that  neigh- 


154      LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

hour's  shape),  it  is  of  you  and  of  your 
works  that  a  native  of  the  Forest  is 
most  frequently  brought  in  mind.  All 
the  spirits  of  the  river  and  the  hill,  all 
the  dying  refrains  of  ballad  and  the 
fading  echoes  of  story,  ,all  the  memory 
of  the  wild  past,  each  legend  of  burn 
and  loch,  seem  to  have  cqrnbined  to  in- 
form your  spirit,  and  to  secure  themselves 
an  immortal  life  in  your  song.  It  is 
through  you  that  we  remember  them  ; 
and  in  recalling  them;  as  in  treading 
each  hillside  in  this  land,  we  again  re- 
member you  and  bless  you. 

It  is  not  *  Sixty  Years  Since '  the 
echo  of  Tweed  among  his  pebbles  fell 
for  the  last  time  on  your  ear  ;  not  sixty 
years  since,  and  how  much  is  altered ! 
But  two  generations  have  passed  ;  the 
lad  who  used  to  ride  from  Edinburgh  to 
Abbotsford,  carrying  new  books  for  you, 
and  old,  is  still  vending,  in  George  Street, 
old  books  and  new.  Of  politics  I  have 
not  the  heart  to  speak.  Little  joy  would 
you  have  had  in  most  that  has  befallen 


SJJ^    WALTER   SCOTT  155 

since  the  Reform  Bill  was  passed,  to  the 
chivalrous  cry  of  'burke  Sir  Walter.' 
We  are  still  very  Radical  in  the  Forest, 
and  you  were  taken  away  from  many 
evils  to  come.  How  would  the  cheek  of 
Walter  Scott,  or  of  Leyden,  have  blushed 
at  the  names  of  Majuba,  The  Soudan, 
Maiwand,  and  many  others  that  recall 
political  cowardice  or  military  incapacity ! 
On  the  other  hand,  who  but  you  could 
have  sung  the  dirge  of  Gordon,  or 
wedded  with  immortal  verse  the  names 
of  Hamilton  (who  fell  with  Cavagnari), 
of  the  two  Stewarts,  of  many  another 
clansman,  brave  among  the  bravest ! 
Only  he  who  told  how 

The  stubborn  spearmen  still  made  good 
Their  dark  impenetrable  wood 

could  have  fitly  rhymed  a  score  of  feats 
of  arms  in  which,  as  at  M'Neill's  Zareba 
and  at  Abu  Klea, 

Groom  fought  like  noble,  squire  like  knight, 
As  fearlessly  and  well. 

Ah,  Sir,  the  hearts  of  the  rulers  may 
wax  faint,  and  the  voting  classes  may 


I $6      LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

forget  that  they  are  Britons  ;  but  when 
it  comes  to  blows  our  fighting  men 
might  cry,  with  Leyden, 

My  name  is  little  Jock  Elliot, 
And  wha  daur  meddle  wi'  me  ! 

Much  is  changed,  in  the  country-side  as 
well  as  in  the  country;  but  much  re- 
mains. The  little  towns  of  your  time 
are  populous  and  excessively  black  with 
the  smoke  of  factories — not,  I  fear,  at 
present  very  flourishing.  In  Galashiels 
you  still  see  the  little  change-house  and 
the  cluster  of  cottages  round  the  Laird's 
lodge,  like  the  clachan  of  TuUy  Veolan. 
But  these  plain  remnants  of  the  old 
Scotch  towns  are  almost  buried  in  a 
multitude  of  '  smoky  dwarf  houses  ' — 
a  living  poet,  Mr.  Matthew  Arnold,  has 
found  the  fitting  phrase  for  these 
dwellings,  once  for  all.  All  over  the 
Forest  the  waters  are  dirty  and  poisoned  : 
I  think  they  are  filthiest  below  Hawick ; 
but  this  may  be  mere  local  prejudice  in 
a  Selkirk  man.  To  keep  them  clean 
costs  money  ;  and,  though  improvements 


SIJ^    WALTER  SCOTT  157 

are  often  promised,  I  cannot  see  much 
change  for  the  better.  Abbotsford, 
luckily,  is  above  Galashiels,  and  only 
receives  the  dirt  and  dyes  of  Selkirk, 
Peebles,  Walkerburn,  and  Innerleithen. 
On  the  other  hand,  your  ill-omened  later 
dwelling,  *  the  unhappy  palace  of  your 
race,'  is  overlooked  by  villas  that  prick  a 
cockney  ear  among  their  larches,  hotels 
of  the  future.  Ah,  Sir,  Scotland  is  a 
strange  place.  Whisky  is  exiled  from 
some  of  our  caravanserais,  and  they  have 
banished  Sir  John  Barleycorn.  It  seems 
as  if  the  views  of  the  excellent  critic  (who 
wrote  your  life  lately,  and  said  you  had 
left  no  descendants,  le  pauvre  Jioinme  /) 
were  beginning  to  prevail.  This  pious 
biographer  was  greatly  shocked  by  that 
capital  story  about  the  keg  of  whisky 
that  arrived  at  the  Liddesdale  farmer's 
during  family  prayers.  Your  Toryism 
also  was  an  offence  to  him. 

Among  these  vicissitudes  of  things 
and  the  overthrow  of  customs,  let  us  be 
thankful  that,  beyond  the  reach  of  the 


158      LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

manufacturers,  the  Border  country  re- 
mains as  kind  and  homely  as  ever.  I 
looked  at  Ashiestiel  some  days  ago :  the 
house  seemed  just  as  it  may  have  been 
when  you  left  it  for  Abbotsford,  only 
there  was  a  lawn-tennis  net  on  the  lawn, 
the  hill  on  the  opposite  bank  of  the 
Tweed  was  covered  to  the  crest  with 
turnips,  and  the  burn  did  not  sing  below 
the  little  bridge,  for  in  this  arid  summer 
the  burn  was  dry.  But  there  was  still 
a  grilse  that  rose  to  a  big  March  brown 
in  the  shrunken  stream  below  Elibank. 
This  may  not  interest  you,  who  styled 
yourself 

No  fisher, 

But  a  well-wisher 

To  the  game  ! 

Still,  as  when  you  were  thinking  over 
Marmion,  a  man  might  have  '  grand 
gallops  among  the  hills ' — those  grave 
wastes  of  heather  and  bent  that  sever 
all  the  watercourses  and  roll  their  sheep- 
covered    pastures  from    Dollar    Law  to 


SIR    WALTER   SCOTT  159 

White  Combe,  and  from  White  Combe 
to  the  Three  Brethren  Cairn  and  the 
Windburg  and  Skelf-hill  Pen.  Yes, 
Teviotdale  is  pleasant  still,  and  there  is 
not  a  drop  of  dye  in  the  water,  purior 
electro,  of  Yarrow.  St.  Mary's  Loch  lies 
beneath  me,  smitten  with  wind  and  rain 
—the  St.  Mary's  of  North  and  of  the 
Shepherd.  Only  the  trout,  that  see  a 
myriad  of  artificial  flies,  are  shyer  than 
of  yore.  The  Shepherd  could  no  longer 
fill  a  cart  up  Meggat  with  trout  so  much 
of  a  size  that  the  country  people  took 
them  for  herrings. 

The  grave  of  Piers  Cockburn  is  still 
not  desecrated  :  hard  by  it  lies,  within  a 
little  wood  ;  and  beneath  that  slab  of 
old  sandstone,  and  the  graven  letters, 
and  the  sword  and  shield,  sleep  '  Piers 
Cockburn  and  Marjory  his  wife.'  Not 
a  hundred  yards  off  was  the  castle-door 
where  they  hanged  him  ;  this  is  the 
tomb  of  the  ballad,  and  the  lady  that 
buried  him  rests  now  with  her  wild 
lord. 


i6o-     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Oh,  wat  ye  no  my  heart  was  sair, 

When  I  happit  the  mouls  on  his  yellow  hair  ; 

Oh,  wat  ye  no  my  heart  was  wae, 

When  I  turned  about  and  went  my  way  !  ^ 

Here  too  hearts  have  broken,  and  there 
is  a  sacredness  in  the  shadow  and 
beneath  these  clustering  berries  of  the 
rowan-trees.  That  sacredness,  that  re- 
verent memory  of  our  old  land,  it  is 
always  and  inextricably  blended  with 
our  memories,  with  our  thoughts,  with 
our  love  of  you.     Scotchmen,  methinks, 

'  Lord  Napier  and  Ettrick  points  out  to  me  that, 
unluckily,  the  tradition  is  erroneous.  Piers  was 
not  executed  at  all.  William  Cockburn  suffered  in 
Edinburgh.  But  the  Border  Minstrelsy  overrides 
history. 

Criminal  Trials  in  Scotland,  by  Robert  Pitcairn, 
Esq.     Vol.  i.  part  i.  p.  144,  a.d.  1530.     17  Jac.  V. 

May  16.  William  Cokburne  of  Henderland,  con- 
victed (in  presence  of  the  King)  of  high  treason  com- 
mitted by  him  in  bringing  Alexander  Forestare  and 
his  son,  Englishmen,  to  the  plundering  of  Archibald 
Somervile ;  and  for  treasonably  bringing  certain 
Englishmen  to  the  lands  of  Glenquhome  ;  and  for 
common  theft,  common  reset  of  theft,  out-putting  and 
in-putting  thereof.  Sentence.  For  which  causes  and 
crimes  he  has  forfeited  his  life,  lands,  and  goods, 
movable  and  immovable  ;  which  shall  be  escheated 
to  the  King.     Beheaded. 


SIR    WALTER  SCOTT  i6i 

who  owe  so  much  to  you,  owe  you  most 
for  the  example  you  gave  of  the  beauty 
of  a  life  of  honour,  showing  them  what, 
by  heaven's  blessing,  a  Scotchman  still 
might  be. 

Words,  empty  and  unavailing — for 
what  words  of  ours  can  speak  our 
thoughts  or  interpret  our  affections  ! 
From  you  first,  as  we  followed  the  deer 
with  King  James,  or  rode  with  William 
of  Deloraine  on  his  midnight  errand,  did 
we  learn  what  Poetry  means  and  all  the 
happiness  that  is  in  the  gift  of  song. 
This  and  more  than  may  be  told  you 
gave  us,  that  are  not  forgetful,  not  un- 
grateful, though  our  praise  be  unequal 
to  our  gratitude.     Fungor  inam  nmnefe  ! 


M 


i62      LETTERS   TO   DEAD   AUTHORS 


XVI. 

To  Ensebiiis  of  CcEsarea. 

(CONCERNING   THE    GODS  OF   THE    HEATHEN.) 

Touching  the  Gods  of  the  Heathen, 
most  reverend  Father,  thou  art  not 
ignorant  that  even  now,  as  in  the  time  of 
thy  probation  on  earth,  there  is  great 
dissension.  That  these  feigned  Deities 
and  idols,  the  work  of  men's  hands,  are  no 
longer  worshipped  thou  knowest ;  neither 
do  men  eat  meat  offered  to  idols.  Even 
as  spake  that  last  Oracle  which  mur- 
mured forth,  the  latest  and  the  only- 
true  voice  from  Delphi,  even  so  'the 
fair-wrought  court  divine  hath  fallen  ;  no 
more  hath  Phoebus  his  home,  no  more 
his  laurel-bough,  nor  the  singing  well  of 
water;  nay,  the  sweet- voiced  water  is 
silent.'  The  fane  is  ruinous,  and  the 
images  of  men's  idolatry  are  dust. 


EUSEBIUS  OF  CMS  A  RE  A  163 

Nevertheless,  most  worshipful,  men 
do  still  dispute  about  the  beginnings  of 
those  sinful  Gods  :  such  as  Zeus,  Athene, 
and  Dionysus  :  and  marvel  how  first  they 
won  their  dominion  over  the  souls  of 
the  foolish  peoples.  Now,  concerning 
these  things  there  is  not  one  belief,  but 
many ;  howbeit,  there  are  two  main 
kinds  of  opinion.  One  sect  of  philoso- 
phers believes — as  thyself,  with  heavenly 
learning,  didst  not  vainly  persuade — that 
the  Gods  were  the  inventions  of  wild 
and  bestial  folk,  who,  long  before  cities 
were  builded  or  life  was  honourably 
ordained,  fashioned  forth  evil  spirits  in 
their  own  savage  likeness  ;  ay,  or  in  the 
likeness  of  the  very  beasts  that  perish. 
To  this  judgment,  as  it  is  set  forth  in 
thy  Book  of  the  Preparation  for  the 
Gospel,  I,  humble  as  I  am,  do  give  my 
consent.  But  on  the  other  side  are 
many  and  learned  men,  chiefly  of  the 
tribes  of  the  Alemanni,  who  have  almost 
conquered  the  whole  inhabited  world. 
These,  being  unwilling  to  suppose  that 

M  2 


1 64     LETTERS    TO   DEAD  AUTHORS 

the  Hellenes  were  in  bondage  to  super- 
stitions handed  down  from  times  of  utter 
darkness  and  a  bestial  life,  do  chiefly 
hold  with  the  heathen  philosophers,  even 
with  the  writers  whom  thou,  most  vene- 
rable, didst  confound  with  thy  wisdom 
and  chasten  with  the  scourge  of  small 
cords  of  thy  wit. 

Thus,  like  the  heathen,  our  doctors 
and  teachers  maintain  that  the  gods  of 
the  nations  were,  in  the  beginning,  such 
pure  natural  creatures  as  the  blue  sky, 
the  sun,  the  air,  the  bright  dawn,  and 
the  fire  ;  but,  as  time  went  on,  men, 
forgetting  the  meaning  of  their  own 
speech  and  no  longer  understanding 
the  tongue  of  their  own  fathers,  were 
misled  and  beguiled  into  fashioning  all 
those  lamentable  tales  :  as  that  Zeus,  for 
love  of  mortal  women,  took  the  shape 
of  a  bull,  a  ram,  a  serpent,  an  ant,  an 
eagle,  and  sinned  in  such  wise  as  it  is 
a  shame  even  to  speak  of 

Behold,  then,  most  worshipful,  how 
these   doctors   and  learned  men   argue, 


EUSEBIUS  OF  C^SAREA  165 

even  like  the  philosophers  of  the  heathen 
whom  thou  didst  confound.  For  they 
declare  the  gods  to  have  been  natural 
elements,  sun  and  sky  and  storm,  even 
as  did  thy  opponents  ;  and,  like  them, 
as  thou  saidst,  '  they  are  nowise  at  one 
with  each  other  in  their  explanations.' 
For  of  old  some  boasted  that  Hera  was 
the  Air ;  and  some  that  she  signified 
the  love  of  woman  and  man  ;  and  some 
that  she  was  the  waters  above  the  Earth  ; 
and  others  that  she  was  the  Earth  be- 
neath the  waters  ;  and  yet  others  that 
she  was  the  Night,  for  that  Night  is  the 
shadow  of  Earth  :  as  if,  forsooth,  the 
men  who  first  worshipped  Hera  had 
understanding  of  these  things  !  And 
when  Hera  and  Zeus  quarrel  unseemly 
(as  Homer  declareth),  this  meant  (said 
the  learned  in  thy  days)  no  more  than 
the  strife  and  confusion  of  the  elements, 
and  was  not  in  the  beginning  an  idle  slan- 
derous tale. 

To  all  which,  most  worshipful,  thou 
didst  answer  wisely :  saying  that  Hera 


1 66     LETTERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

could  not  be  both  night,  and  earth,  and 
water,  and  air,  and  the  love  of  sexes, 
and  the  confusion  of  the  elements  ;  but 
that  all  these  opinions  were  vain  dreams, 
and  the  guesses  of  the  learned.  And 
why — thou  saidst — even  if  the  Gods  were 
pure  natural  creatures,  are  such  foul 
things  told  of  them  in  the  Mysteries  as ' 
it  is  not  fitting  for  me  to  declare.  *  These 
wanderings,  and  drinkings,  and  loves, 
and  seductions,  that  would  be  shameful 
in  men,  why,'  thou  saidst,  'were  they 
attributed  to  the  natural  elements  ;  and 
wherefore  did  the  Gods  constantly  show 
themselves,  like  the  sorcerers  called  were- 
wolves, in  the  shape  of  the  perishable 
beasts  } '  But,  mainly,  thou  didst  argue 
that,  till  the  philosophers  of  the  heathen 
were  agreed  among  themselves,  not  all 
contradicting  each  the  other,  they  had 
no  semblance  of  a  sure  foundation  for 
their  doctrine. 

To  all  this  and  more,  most  worshipful 
Father,  I  know  not  what  the  heathen 
answered   thee.     But,  in  our   time,  the 


EUSEBIUS   OF  C^SAREA  167 

learned  men  who  stand  to  it  that  the 
heathen  Gods  were  in  the  beginning  the 
pure  elements,  and  that  the  nations, 
forgetting  their  first  love  and  the  sig- 
nificance of  their  own  speech,  became 
confused  and  were  betrayed  into  foul 
stories  about  the  pure  Gods  —  these 
learned  men,  I  say,  agree  no  whit  among 
themselves.  Nay,  they  differ  one  from 
another,  not  less  than  did  Plutarch  and 
Porphyry  and  Theagenes,  and  the  rest 
whom  thou  didst  laugh  to  scorn.  Bear 
with  me,  Father,  while  I  tell  thee  how 
the  new  Plutarchs  and  Porphyrys  do 
contend  among  themselves  ;  and  yet 
these  differences  of  theirs  they  call 
*  Science ' ! 

Consider  the  goddess  Athene,  who 
sprang  armed  from  the  head  of  Zeus, 
even  as — among  the  fables  of  the  poor 
heathen  folk  of  seas  thou  never  knewest 
— goddesses  are  fabled  to  leap  out  from 
the  armpits  or  feet  of  their  fathers. 
Thou  must  know  that  what  Plato,  in 
the  '  Cratylus,'  made  Socrates  say  in  jest, 


1 68     LETTERS    TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

the  learned  among  us  practise  in  sad 
earnest.  For,  when  they  wish  to  explain 
the  nature  of  any  God,  they  first  examine 
his  name,  and  torment  the  letters  there- 
of, arranging  and  altering  them  according 
to  their  will,  and  flying  off  to  the  speech 
of  the  Indians  and  Medesand  Chaldeans, 
and  other  Barbarians,  if  Greek  will  not 
serve  their  turn.  How  saith  Socrates  ? 
*  I  bethink  me  of  a  very  new  and  ingeni- 
ous idea  that  occurs  to  me  ;  and,  if  I 
do  not  mind,  I  shall  be  wiser  than  I 
should  be  by  to-morrow's  dawn.  My 
notion  is  that  we  may  put  in  and  pull  out 
letters  at  pleasure  and  alter  the  accents.' 
Even  so  do  the  learned — not  at 
pleasure,  maybe,  but  according  to  certain 
fixed  laws  (so  they  declare)  ;  yet  none 
the  more  do  they  agree  among  them- 
selves. And  I  deny  not  that  they 
discover  many  things  true  and  good  to 
be  known  ;  but,  as  touching  the  names 
of  the  Gods,  their  learning,  as  it  stand- 
eth,  is  confusion.  Look,  then,  at  the 
goddess    Athene  :   taking  one  example 


EUSEBIUS  OF  CyESAREA  169 

out  of  hundreds.  We  have  dwelHng  in 
our  coasts  Muellerus,  the  most  erudite 
of  the  doctors  of  the  Alemannij  and 
the  most  golden-mouthed.  Concerning 
Athene,  he  saith  that  her  name  is  none 
other  than,  in  the  ancient  tongue  of  the 
Brachmanse,  Ahaiid,  which,  being  inter- 
preted, means  the  Dawn.  *  And  that 
the  morning  light,'  saith  he,  '  offers  the 
best  starting-point  for  the  later  growth 
of  Athene  has  been  proved,  I  believe, 
beyond  the  reach  of  doubt  or  even  cavil.'  ^ 
Yet  this  same  doctor  candidly  lets 
us  know  that  another  of  his  nation,  the 
witty  Benfeius,  hath  devised  another 
sense  and  origin  of  Athene,  taken  from 
the  speech  of  the  old  Medes.  But 
Muellerus  declares  to  us  that  whosoever 
shall  examine  the  contention  of  Benfeius 
*  will  be  bound,  in  common  honesty, 
to  confess  that  it  is  untenable.'  This, 
Father,  is  *  one  for  Benfeius,'  as  the 
saying  goes.     And  as  Muellerus   holds 

'  'The  Lesson  of  ]\v^\itx.'' —Nineteenth  Century^ 
October  1885. 


170     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

that  these  matters  '  admit  of  almost 
mathematical  precision,'  it  would  seem 
that  Benfeius  is  but  a  Diimmkopf,  as  the 
Alemanni  say,  in  their  own  language, 
when  they  would  be  pleasant  among 
themselves. 

Now,  wouldst  thou  credit  it  ?  despite 
the  mathematical  plainness  of  the  facts, 
other  Alemanni  agree  neither  with 
Muellerus,  nor  yet  with  Benfeius,  and 
will  neither  hear  that  Athene  was  the 
Dawn,  nor  yet  that  she  is  '  the  feminine 
of  the  Zend  Thrdetdna  athwydna!  Lo, 
you  !  how  Prellerus  goes  about  to  show 
that  her  name  is  drawn  not  from 
A  hand  and  the  old  Brachmanae,  nor 
athivydna  and  the  old  Medes,  but  from 
'  the  root  alQy  whence  aWrjp,  the  air,  or 
aOy  whence  avOos,  a  flower.'  Yea,  and 
Prellerus  will  have  it  that  no  man  knows 
the  verity  of  this  matter.  None  the  less 
he  is  very  bold,  and  will  none  of  the 
Dawn  ;  but  holds  to  it  that  Athene 
was,  from  the  first,  *  the  clear  pure  height 


£  USE  EJUS   OF  CALSAREA  171 

of  the  Air,  which  is  exceeding  pure  in 
Attica.' 

Now,  Father,  as  if  all  this  were  not 
enough,  comes  one  Roscherus  in,  with 
a  mighty  great  volume  on  the  Gods, 
and  Furtwaenglerus,  among  others,  for 
his  ally.  And  these  doctors  will  neither 
with  Rueckertus  and  Hermannus,  take 
Athene  for  *  wisdom  in  person ; '  nor 
with  Welckerus  and  Prellerus,  for  '  the 
goddess  of  air  ;'  nor  even,  with  Muellerus 
and  mathematical  certainty,  for  'the 
Morning-Red : '  but  they  say  that  Athene 
is  the  '  black  thunder-cloud,  and  the 
lightning  that  leapeth  therefrom  ' !  I 
make  no  doubt  that  other  Alemanni 
are  of  other  minds :  quot  Alemanni  tot 
senienti(E. 

Yea,  as  thou  saidst  of  the  learned 
heathen,  Ovhs  ^yap  aWrfKois  avficpoyva 
<f)vato\oyov(7iv.  Yet  these  disputes  of 
theirs  they  call  *  Science  '  I  But  if  any 
man  says  to  the  learned  :  *  Best  of  men, 
you  are  erudite,  and  laborious  and 
witty  ;  but,  till  you  are  more  of  the  same 


172     LETTERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

mind,  your  opinions  cannot  be  styled 
knowledge.  Nay,  they  are  at  present 
of  no  avail  whereon  to  found  any  doc- 
trine concerning  the  Gods  ' — that  man 
is  railed  at  for  his  '  mean  '  and  '  weak  ' 
arguments. 

Was  it  thus,  Father,  that  the  heathen 
railed  against  thee  ?  But  I  must  still 
believe,  with  thee,  that  these  evil  tales 
of  the  Gods  were  invented  '  when  man's 
life  was  yet  brutish  and  wandering '  (as 
is  the  life  of  many  tribes  that  even  now 
tell  like  tales),  and  were  maintained  in 
honour  by  the  later  Greeks  'because 
none  dared  alter  the  ancient  beliefs  of 
his  ancestors.'  Farewell,  Father  ;  and 
all  good  be  with  thee,  wishes  thy  well- 
wisher  and  thy  disciple. 


73 


XVII. 

To  Percy  Bysslie  Shelley. 

Sir, —  In  your  lifetime  on  earth  you 
were  not  more  than  commonly  curious 
as  to  what  was  said  by  '  the  herd  of 
mankind,'  if  I  may  quote  your  own 
phrase.  It  was  that  of  one  who  loved  his 
fellow-men,  but  did  not  in  his  less  enthu- 
siastic moments  overestimate  their  vir- 
tues and  their  discretion.  Removed  so 
far  away  from  our  hubbub,  and  that  world 
where,  as  you  say,  we  '  pursue  our  serious 
folly  as  of  old,'  you  are,  one  may  guess, 
but  moderately  concerned  about  the  fate 
of  your  writings  and  your  reputation.  As 
to  the  first,  you  have  somewhere  said,  in 
one  of  your  letters,  that  the  final  judg- 
ment on  your  merits  as  a  poet  is  in  the 
hands  of  ^sterity,  and  that  you  fear 
the  verdict    will    be    *  Guilty,'    and    the 


174     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

sentence  '  Death.'  Such  apprehensions 
cannot  have  been  fixed  or  frequent  in 
the  mind  of  one  whose  genius  burned 
always  with  a  clearer  and  steadier  flame 
to  the  last.  The  jury  o{  which  you 
spoke  has  met :  a  mixed  jury  and  a 
merciful.  The  verdict  is  '  Well  done,' 
and  the  sentence  Immortality  of  Fame. 
There  have  been,  there  are,  dissenters  ; 
yet  probably  they  will  be  less  and  less 
heard  as  the  years  go  on. 

One  judge,  or  juryman,  has  made 
up  his  mind  that  prose  was  your  true 
province,  and  that  your  letters  will  out- 
live your  lays.  I  know  not  whether  it 
was  the  same  or  an  equally  well-inspired 
critic,  who  spoke  of  your  most  perfect 
lyrics  (so  Beau  Brummell  spoke  of  his 
ill-tied  cravats)  as  '  a  gallery  of  your 
failures.'  But  the  general  voice  does 
not  echo  these  utterances  of  a  too 
subtle  intellect.  At  a  famous  Univer- 
sity (not  your  own)  once  existed  a  band 
of  men  known  as  'The  Trinity  Sniffers.' 
Perhaps  the  spirit  of   the  sniffer   may 


PERCY  BYSSHE   SHELLEY         175 

still  inspire  some  of  the  jurors  who  from 
time  to  time  make  themselves  heard  in 
your  case.  The  *  Quarterly  Review,'  I 
fear,  is  still  unreconciled.  It  regards 
your  attempts  as  tainted  by  the  spirit 
of  *  The  Liberal  Movement  in  English 
Literature  ; '  and  it  is  impossible,  alas ! 
to  maintain  with  any  success  that  you 
were  a  Throne  and  Altar  Tory.  At 
Oxford  you  are  forgiven  ;  and  the  old 
rooms  where  you  let  the  oysters  burn 
(was  not  your  founder,  King  Alfred, 
once  guilty  of  similar  negligence  ?)  are 
now  shown  to  pious  pilgrims. 

But  Conservatives,  'tis  rumoured,  are 
still  averse  to  your  opinions,  and  are 
believed  to  prefer  to  yours  the  works  of 
the  Reverend  Mr.  Keble,  and,  indeed,  of 
the  clergy  in  general.  But,  in  spite  of 
all  this,  your  poems,  like  the  affections 
of  the  true  lovers  in  Theocritus,  are  yet 
*  in  the  mouths  of  all,  and  chiefly  on 
the  lips  of  the  young.'  It  is  in  your 
lyrics  that  you  live,  and  I  do  not  mean 
that  every  one  could  pass  an  examina- 


176     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

tion  in  the  plot  of  '  Prometheus  Un- 
bound.' Talking  of  this  piece,  by  the 
way,  a  Cambridge  critic  finds  that  it 
reveals  in  you  a  hankering  after  life 
in  a  cave — doubtless  an  unconscious- 
ly inherited  memory  from  cave-man. 
Speaking  of  cave-man  reminds  me  that 
you  once  spoke  of  deserting  song  for 
prose,  and  of  producing  a  history  of 
the  moral,  intellectual,  and  political 
elements  in  human  society,  which,  we 
now  agree,  began,  as  Asia  would  fain 
have  ended,  in  a  cave. 

Fortunately  you  gave  us  *  Adonais  ' 
and  '  Hellas  '  instead  of  this  treatise,  and 
we  have  now  successfully  written  the 
natural  history  of  Man  for  ourselves. 
Science  tells  us  that  before  becoming  a 
cave-dweller  he  was  a  Brute  ;  Experience 
daily  proclaims  that  he  constantly  reverts 
to  his  original  condition.  Lhonime  est 
tin  mechant  animal^  in  spite  of  your  boy- 
ish efforts  to  add  pretty  girls  '  to  the  list 
of  the  good,  the  disinterested,  and  the 
free.' 


PERCY  BYSSHE  SHELLEY  177 

Ah,  not  in  the  wastes  of  Speculation, 
nor  the  sterile  din  of  Politics,  were  *  the 
haunts  meet  for  thee.'  Watching  the 
yellow  bees  in  the  ivy  bloom,  and  the 
reflected  pine  forest  in  the  water-pools, 
watching  the  sunset  as  it  faded,  and  the 
dawn  as  it  fired,  and  weaving  all  fair 
and  fleeting  things  into  a  tissue  where 
light  and  music  were  at  one,  that  was 
the  task  of  Shelley  !  '  To  ask  you  for 
anything  human,'  you  said,  'was  like 
asking  for  a  leg  of  mutton  at  a  gin-shop.' 
Nay,  rather,  like  asking  Apollo  and 
Hebe,  in  the  Olympian  abodes,  to  give 
us  beef  for  ambrosia,  and  port  for  nectar. 
Each  poet  gives  what  he  has,  and  what 
he  can  offer  ;  you  spread  before  us  fairy 
bread,  and  enchanted  wine,  and  shall  we 
turn  away,  with  a  sneer,  because,  out  of  all 
the  multitudes  of  singers,  one  is  spiritual 
and  strange,  one  has  seen  Artemis  un- 
veiled }  One,  like  Anchises,  has  been 
beloved  of  the  Goddess,  and  his  eyes, 
when  he  looks  on  the  common  world 
of  common  men,   are,  like  the  eyes  of 

N 


178     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Anchises,  blind  with  excess  of  light.  Let 
Shelley  sing  of  what  he  saw,  what  none 
saw  but  Shelley  ! 

Notwithstanding  the  popularity  of 
your  poems  (the  most  romantic  of 
things  didactic),  our  world  is  no  better 
than  the  world  you  knew.  This  will 
disappoint  you,  who  had  *  a  passion  for 
reforming  it.'  Kings  and  priests  are 
very  much  where  you  left  them.  True, 
we  have  a  poet  who  assails  them,  at 
large,  frequently  and  fearlessly  ;  yet  Mr. 
Swinburne  has  never,  like  '  kind  Hunt,' 
been  in  prison,  nor  do  we  fear  for  him  a 
charge  of  treason.  Moreover,  chemical 
science  has  discovered  new  and  ingeni- 
ous ways  of  destroying  principalities 
and  powers.  You  would  be  interested 
in  the  methods,  but  your  peaceful  Re- 
volutionism, which  disdained  physical 
force,  would  regret  their  application. 

Our  foreign  affairs  are  not  in  a  state 
which  even  you  would  consider  satis- 
factory ;  for  we  have  just  had  to  contend 
with  a  Revolt  of  Islam,  and  we  still  find 


PERCY  BYSSHE  SHELLEY         179 

in  Russia  exactly  the  qualities  which 
you  recognised  and  described.  We  have 
a  great  statesman  whose  methods  and 
eloquence  somewhat  resemble  those  you 
attribute  to  Laon  and  Prince  Atha- 
nase.  Alas !  he  is  a  youth  of  more  than 
seventy  summers  ;  and  not  in  his  time 
will  Prometheus  retire  to  a  cavern  and 
pass  a  peaceful  millennium  in  twining 
buds  and  beams. 

In  domestic  affairs  most  of  the  Re- 
fornis  you  desired  to  see  have  been 
carried.  Ireland  has  received  Emanci- 
pation, and  almost  everything  else  she 
can  ask  for.  I  regret  to  say  that  she  is 
still  unhappy  ;  her  wounds  unstanched, 
her  wrongs  unforgiven.  At  home  we 
have  enfranchised  the  paupers,  and  expect 
the  most  happy  results.  Paupers  (as 
Mr.  Gladstone  says)  are  *  our  own  flesh 
and  blood,'  and,  as  we  compel  them  to 
be  vaccinated,  so  we  should  permit  them 
to  vote.  Is  it  a  dream  that  Mr.  Jesse 
Collings  (how  you  would  have  loved 
that  man  !)  has  a  Bill  for  extending  the 

N  2 


i8o     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

priceless  boon  of  the  vote  to  inmates  of 
Pauper  Lunatic  Asylums?  This  may- 
prove  that  last  element  in  the  Elixir  of 
political  happiness  which  we  have  long 
sought  in  vain.  Atheists,  you  will  re- 
gret to  hear,  are  still  unpopular  ;  but 
the  new  Parliament  has  done  something 
for  Mr.  Bradlaugh.  You  should  have 
known  our  Charles  while  you  were  in 
the  '  Queen  Mab  '  stage.  I  fear  you 
wandered,  later,  from  his  robust  con- 
dition of  intellectual  development. 

As  to  your  private  life,  many  bio- 
graphers contrive  to  make  public  as 
much  of  it  as  possible.  Your  name, 
even  in  life,  was,  alas !  a  kind  of  duc- 
dame  to  bring  people  of  no  very  great 
sense  into  your  circle.  This  curious 
fascination  has  attracted  round  your 
memory  a  feeble  folk  of  commentators, 
biographers,  anecdotists,  and  others  of 
the  tribe.  They  swarm  round  you  like 
carrion-flies  round  a  sensitive  plant,  like 
night-birds  bewildered  by  the  sun.  Men 
of  sense  and  taste  have  written  on  you. 


PERCY  BYSSHE   SHELLEY         i8i 

indeed  ;  but  your  weaker  admirers  are 
now  disputing  as  to  whether  it  was  your 
heart,  or  a  less  dignified  and  most  trou- 
blesome organ,  which  escaped  the  flames 
of  the  funeral  pyre.     These  biographers 
fight   terribly    among    themselves,   and 
vainly  prolong  the  memory  of  *  old  un- 
happy far-off  things,   and  sorrows  long 
ago.'      Let   us    leave   them    and     their 
squabbles  over  what  is  unessential,  their 
raking  up  of  old  letters  and  old  stories. 
The  town  has  lately  yawned  a  weary 
laugh  over  an  enemy  of  yours,  who  has 
produced  two  heavy  volumes,  styled  by 
him  '  The  Real  Shelley.'    The  real  Shel- 
ley, it  appears,  was  Shelley  as  conceived 
of  by  a  worthy  gentleman  so  prejudiced 
and  so  skilled  in   taking  up  things  by 
the  wrong  handle  that  I  wonder  he  has 
not  made  a  name  in  the  exact  science  of 
Comparative  Mythology.     He  criticises 
you    in    the    spirit    of    that    Christian 
Apologist,  the  Englishman  who  called 
you  'a  damned  Atheist'  in  the    post- 
office  at  Pisa.     He  finds  that  you  had 


1 82     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

*a  little  turned-up  nose,'  a  feature  no 
less  important  in  his  system  than  was 
the  nose  of  Cleopatra  (according  to 
Pascal)  in  the  history  of  the  world.  To 
be  in  harmony  with  your  nose,  you  were 
a  '  phenomenal '  liar,  an  ill-bred,  ill-born, 
profligate,  partly  insane,  an  evil-tem- 
pered monster,  a  self-righteous  person, 
full  of  self-approbation — in  fact  you 
were  the  Beast  of  this  pious  Apocalypse. 
Your  friend  Dr.  Lind  was  an  embittered 
and  scurrilous  apothecary,  '  a  bad  old 
man.'  But  enough  of  this  inopportune 
brawler. 

For  Humanity,  of  which  you  hoped 
such  great  things,  Science  predicts  ex- 
tinction in  a  night  of  Frost.  The  sun 
will  grow  cold,  slowly — as  slowly  as 
doom  came  on  Jupiter  in  your  '  Prome- 
theus,' but  as  surely.  If  this  nightmare 
be  fulfilled,  perhaps  the  Last  Man,  in 
some  fetid  hut  on  the  ice-bound  Equa- 
tor, will  read,  by  a  fading  lamp  charged 
with  the  dregs  of  the  oil  in  his  cruse,  the 
poetry  of  Shelley.     So  reading,  he,  the 


PERCY  BYSSHE  SHELLEY         183 

latest  of  his  race,  will  not  wholly  be  de- 
prived of  those  sights  which  alone  (says 
the  nameless  Greek)  make  life  worth  en- 
during. In  your  verse  he  will  have  sight 
of  sky,  and  sea,  and  cloud,  the  gold  of 
dawn  and  the  gloom  of  earthquake  and 
eclipse.  He  will  be  face  to  face,  in  fancy, 
with  the  great  powers  that  are  dead,  sun, 
and  ocean,  and  the  illimitable  azure  of 
the  heavens.  In  Shelley's  poetry,  while 
Man  endures,  all  those  will  survive  ;  for 
your  *  voice  is  as  the  voice  of  winds  and 
tides,'  and  perhaps  more  deathless  than 
all  of  these,  and  only  perishable  with  the 
perishing  of  the  human  spirit. 


1 84     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 


XVIII. 

To  Monsieur  de  Moliere,    Valet  de 
Chambre  du  Roi. 

Monsieur, — With  what  awe  does  a 
writer  venture  into  the  presence  of  the 
great  Moli^re !  As  a  courtier  in  your 
time  would  scratch  humbly  (with  his 
comb  !)  at  the  door  of  the  Grand  Mon- 
arch, so  I  presume  to  draw  near  your 
dwelling  among  the  Immortals.  You, 
like  the  king  who,  among  all  his  titles, 
has  now  none  so  proud  as  that  of  the 
friend  of  Moliere — you  found  your  do- 
minions small,  humble,  and  distracted ; 
you  raised  them  to  the  dignity  of  an 
empire :  what  Louis  XIV.  did  for  France 
you  achieved  for  French  comedy ;  and 
the  baton  of  Scapin  still  wields  its 
sway  though  the  sword  of  Louis  was 
broken   at   Blenheim.      For    the    King 


MONSIEUR  DE  MO  LI  ERE  185 

the  Pyrenees,  or  so  he  fancied,  ceased 
to  exist  ;  by  a  more  magnificent  con- 
quest you  overcame  the  Channel.  If 
England  vanquished  your  country's  arms, 
it  was  through  you  that  France  ferum 
victorem  cepit,  and  restored  the  dynasty 
of  Comedy  to  the  land  whence  she 
had  been  driven.  Ever  since  Dryden 
borrowed  'L'Etourdi,'  our  tardy  apish 
nation  has  lived  (in  matters  theatrical) 
on  the  spoils  of  the  wits  of  France. 

In  one  respect,  to  be  sure,  times 
and  manners  have  altered.  While  you 
lived,  taste  kept  the  French  drama  pure  ; 
and  it  was  the  congenial  business  of 
English  playwrights  to  foist  their  rustic 
grossness  and  their  large  Fescennine 
jests  into  the  urban  page  •  of  Moliere. 
Now  they  are  diversely  occupied  ;  and 
it  is  their  affair  to  lend  modesty  where 
they  borrow  wit,  and  to  spare  a  blush 
to  the  cheek  of  the  Lord  Chamberlain. 
But  still,  as  has  ever  been  our  wont 
since  Etherege  saw,  and  envied,  and 
imitated  your  successes — still  we  pilfer 


1 86     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

the  plays  of  France,  and  take  our  bien^ 
as  you  said  in  your  lordly  manner, 
wherever  we  can  find  it.  We  are  the 
privateers  of  the  stage  ;  and  it  is  rarely, 
to  be  sure,  that  a  comedy  pleases  the 
town  which  has  not  first  been  '  cut  out ' 
from  the  countrymen  of  Moliere.  Why 
this  should  be,  and  what  '  tenebriferous 
star '  (as  Paracelsus,  your  companion  in 
the  *  Dialogues  des  Morts,'  would  have 
believed)  thus  darkens  the  sun  of  English 
humour,  we  know  not ;  but  certainly 
our  dependence  on  France  is  the  sin- 
cerest  tribute  to  you.  Without  you, 
neither  Rotrou,  nor  Corneille,  nor  'a 
wilderness  of  monkeys '  like  Scarron, 
could  ever  have  given  Comedy  to  France 
and  restored  her  to  Europe. 

While  we  owe  to  you.  Monsieur,  the 
beautiful  advent  of  Comedy,  fair  and 
beneficent  as  Peace  in  the  play  of  Aris- 
tophanes, it  is  still  to  you  that  we  must 
turn  when  of  comedies  we  desire  the 
best.  If  you  studied  with  daily  and 
nightly  care  the  works  of  Plautus  and 


MONSIEUR  DE  MO  LI  ERE  187 

Terence,  if  you  '  let  no  musty  bouquin 
escape  you '  (so  your  enemies  declared), 
it  was  to  some  purpose  that  you  laboured. 
Shakespeare  excepted,  you  eclipsed  all 
who  came  before  you  ;  and  from  those 
that  follow,  however  fresh,  we  turn  :  we 
turn  from  Regnard  and  Beaumarchais, 
from  Sheridan  and  Goldsmith,  from 
Musset  and  Pailleron  and  Labiche,  to 
that  crowded  world  of  your  creations. 
'  Creations  '  one  may  well  say,  for  you 
anticipated  Nature  herself:  you  gave  us, 
before  she  did,  in  Alceste  a  Rousseau 
who  was  a  gentleman  not  a  lacquey  ;  in 
a  mot  of  Don  Juan's,  the  secret  of  the 
new  Religion  and  the  watchword  of 
Comte,  r amour  de  rhumanite. 

Before  you  where  can  we  find,  save 
in  Rabelais,  a  Frenchman  with  humour  ; 
and  where,  unless  it  be  in  Montaigne, 
the  wise  philosophy  of  a  secular  civili- 
sation ?  With  a  heart  the  most  tender, 
delicate,  loving,  and  generous,  a  heart 
often  in  agony  and  torment,  you  had 
to  make  life  endurable  (we  cannot  doubt 


1 88     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

it)  without  any  whisper  of  promise,  or 
hope,  or  warning  from  Religion.  Yes, 
in  an  age  when  the  greatest  mind  of  all, 
the  mind  of  Pascal,  proclaimed  that  the 
only  help  was  in  voluntary  blindness, 
that  the  only  chance  was  to  hazard  all 
on  a  bet  at  evens,  you.  Monsieur,  refused 
to  be  blinded,  or  to  pretend  to  see  what 
you  found  invisible. 

In  Religion  you  beheld  no  promise 
of  help.  When  the  Jesuits  and  Jansen- 
ists  of  your  time  saw,  each  of  them,  in 
Tartufe  the  portrait  of  their  rivals  (as 
each  of  the  laughable  Marquises  in  your 
play  conceived  that  you  were  girding 
at  his  neighbour),  you  all  the  while 
were  mocking  every  credulous  excess 
of  Faith  In  the  sermons  preached  to 
Agnes  we  surely  hear  your  private 
laughter ;  in  the  arguments  for  credulity 
which  are  presented  to  Don  Juan  by 
his  valet  we  listen  to  the  eternal  self- 
defence  of  superstition.  Thus,  desolate 
of  belief,  you  sought  for  the  permanent 
element  of  life — precisely  where  Pascal 


MONSIEUR  DE  MOLIERE  189 

recognised  all  that  was  most  fleeting  and 
unsubstantial — in  divertissement ;  in  the 
pleasure  of  looking  on,  a  spectator  of 
the  accidents  of  existence,  an  observer 
of  the  follies  of  mankind.  Like  the  Gods 
of  the  Epicurean,  you  seem  to  regard 
our  life  as  a  play  that  is  played,  as  a 
comedy  ;  yet  how  often  the  tragic  note 
comes  in !  What  pity,  and  in  the 
laughter  what  an  accent  of  tears,  as  of 
rain  in  the  wind  !  No  comedian  has 
been  so  kindly  and  human  as  you  ;  none 
has  had  a  heart,  like  you,  to  feel  for  his 
butts,  and  to  leave  them  sometimes, 
in  a  sense,  superior  to  their  tormentors. 
Sganarelle,  M.  de  Pourceaugnac,  George 
Dandin,  and  the  rest — our  sympathy, 
somehow,  is  with  them,  after  all  ;  and 
M.  de  Pourceaugnac  is  a  gentleman, 
despite  his  misadventures. 

Though  triumphant  Youth  and  ma- 
licious Love  in  your  plays  may  batter 
and  defeat  Jealousy  and  Old  Age,  yet 
they  have  not  all  the  victory,  or  you 
did    not    mean    that    they    should    win 


190     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

it.  They  go  off  with  laughter,  and  their 
victim  with  a  grimace  ;  but  in  him  we, 
that  are  past  our  youth,  behold  an  actor 
in  an  unending  tragedy,  the  defeat  of  a 
generation.  Your  sympathy  is  not  wholly 
with  the  dogs  that  are  having  their  day  ; 
you  can  throw  a  bone  or  a  crust  to  the 
dog  that  has  had  his,  and  has  been 
taught  that  it  is  over  and  ended.  Your- 
self not  unlearned  in  shame,  in  jealousy, 
in  endurance  of  the  wanton  pride  of 
men  (how  could  the  poor  player  and 
the  husband  of  Celimene  be  untaught 
in  that  experience  ?),  you  never  sided 
quite  heartily,  as  other  comedians  have 
done,  with  young  prosperity  and  rank 
and  power. 

I  am  not  the  first  who  has  dared  to 
approach  you  in  the  Shades ;  for  just 
after  your  own  death  the  author  of '  Les 
Dialogues  des  Morts '  gave  you  Paracelsus 
as  a  companion,  and  the  author  of  '  Le 
Jugement  de  Pluton  '  made  the  '  mighty 
warder '  decide  that  *  Moliere  should 
not   talk   philosophy.'      These    writers. 


MONSIEUR  DE  MOLIERE  191 

like  most  of  us,  feel  that,  after  all,  the 
comedies  of  the  Conternplateur,  of  the 
translator  of  Lucretius,  are  a  philosophy 
of  life  in  themselves,  and  that  in  them 
we  read  the  lessons  of  human  experience 
writ  small  and  clear. 

What  comedian  but  Moliere  has  com- 
bined with  such  depths — with  the  indig- 
nation of  Alceste,  the  self-deception  of 
Tartufe,  the  blasphemy  of  Don  Juan — 
such  wildness  of  irresponsible  mirth, 
such  humour,  such  wit  !  Even  now, 
when  more  than  two  hundred  years  have 
sped  by,  when  so  much  water  has  flowed 
under  the  bridges  and  has  borne  away 
so  many  trifles  of  contemporary  mirth 
{cetera  fluminis  ritu  feruniur),  even  now 
we  never  laugh  so  well  as  when  Mas- 
carille  and  Vadius  and  M.  Jourdain 
tread  the  boards  in  the  Maison  de 
Moliere.  Since  those  mobile  dark  brows 
of  yours  ceased  to  make  men  laugh, 
since  your  voice  denounced  the  '  demo- 
niac '  manner  of  contemporary  tragedians, 
I  take  leave  to  think  that  no  player  has 


192      LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

been  more  worthy  to  wear  the  caiions 
of  Mascarille  or  the  gown  of  Vadius 
than  M.  Coquelin  of  the  Comedie 
Frangaise.  In  him  you  have  a  successor 
to  your  Mascarille  so  perfect,  that  the 
ghosts  of  playgoers  of  your  date  might 
cry,  could  they  see  him,  that  Moliere 
had  come  again.  But,  with  all  respect 
to  the  efforts  of  the  fair,  I  doubt  if 
Mdlle.  Barthet,  or  Mdme.  Croizette  her- 
self, would  reconcile  the  town  to  the 
loss  of  the  fair  De  Brie,  and  Madeleine, 
and  the  first,  the  true  C^limene,  Ar- 
mande.  Yet  had  you  ever  so  merry  a 
soubrette  as  Mdme.  Samary,  so  exqui- 
site a  Nicole  ? 

Denounced,  persecuted,  and  buried 
hugger-mugger  two  hundred  years  ago, 
you  are  now  not  over-praised,  but  more 
worshipped,  with  more  servility  and 
ostentatioft,  studied  with  more  prying 
curiosity  than  you  may  approve.  Are 
not  the  Molieristes  a  body  who  carry 
adoration  to  fanaticism  }  Any  scrap  of 
your   handwriting    (so   few   are   these), 


MONSIEUR  DE  MO  LIE  RE  193 

any  anecdote  even  remotely  touching 
on  your  life,  any  fact  that  may  prove 
your  house  was  numbered  15  not  22,  is 
eagerly  seized  and  discussed  by  your 
too  minute  historians.  Concerning  your 
private  life,  these  men  often  speak  more 
like  malicious  enemies  than  friends ;  re- 
peating the  fabulous  scandals  of  Le 
Boulanger,  and  trying  vainly  to  sup- 
port them  by  grubbing  in  dusty  parish 
registers.  It  is  most  necessary  to  defend 
you  from  your  friends — from  such  friends 
as  the  veteran  and  inveterate  M.  Arsene 
Houssaye,  or  the  industrious  but  puzzle- 
headed  M.  Loiseleur.  Truly  they  seek 
the  living  among  the  dead,  and  the 
immortal  Moliere  among  the  sweepings 
of  attorneys'  offices.  As  I  regard  them 
(for  I  have  tarried  in  their  tents)  and 
as  I  behold  their  trivialities — the  exer- 
cises of  men  who  neglect  Moliere's  works 
to  gossip  about  Moliere's  great-grand- 
mother's second-best  bed — I  sometimes 
wish  that  Moliere  were  here  to  write 
on   his   devotees   a   new  comedy,  '  Les 

O 


194     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

Molieristes.'  How  fortunate  were  they, 
Monsieur,  who  lived  and  worked  with 
you,  who  saw  you  day  by  day,  who 
were  attached,  as  Lagrange  tells  us,  by 
the  kindest  loyalty  to  the  best  and  most 
honourable  of  men,  the  most  open- 
handed  in  friendship,  in  charity  the 
most  delicate,  of  the  heartiest  sympathy  ! 
Ah,  that  for  one  day  I  could  behold  you, 
writing  in  the  study,  rehearsing  on  the 
stage,  musing  in  the  lace-seller's  shop, 
strolling  through  the  Palais,  turning 
over  the  new  books  at  Billaine's,  dusting 
your  ruffles  among  the  old  volumes  on 
the  sunny  stalls.  Would  that,  through 
the  ages,  we  could  hear  you  after  supper, 
merry  with  Boileau,  and  with  Racine, — 
not  yet  a  traitor, — laughing  over  Chape- 
lain,  combining  to  gird  at  him  in  an 
epigram,  or  mocking  at  Cotin,  or  talk- 
ing your  favourite  philosophy,  mind- 
ful of  Descartes.  Surely  of  all  the  wits 
none  was  ever  so  good  a  man,  none 
ever  made  life  so  rich  with  humour  and 
friendship. 


195 


XIX. 

To  Robert  Burns. 

Sir, — Among  men  of  Genius,  and 
especially  among  Poets,  there  are  some 
to  whom  we  turn  \vith  a  peculiar  and 
unfeigned  affection  ;  there  are  others 
whom  we  admire  rather  than  love.  By 
some  we  are  won  with  our  will,  by  others 
conquered  against  our  desire.  It  has 
been  your  peculiar  fortune  to  capture 
the  hearts  of  a  whole  people— a  people 
not  usually  prone  to  praise,  but  devoted 
with  a  personal  and  patriotic  loyalty  to 
you  and  to  your  reputation.  In  you 
every  Scot  who  is  a  Scot  sees,  admires, 
and  compliments  Himself,  his  ideal  self 
— independent,  fond  of  whisky,  fonder  of 
the  lassies  ;  you  are  the  true  representa- 
tive of  him  and  of  his  nation.  Next 
year  will   be  the  hundredth   since   the 


196     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

press  of  Kilmarnock  brought  to  light 
its  solitary  masterpiece,  your  Poems  ; 
and  next  year,  therefore,  methinks,  the 
revenue  will  receive  a  welcome  accession 
from  the  abundance  of  whisky  drunk  in 
your  honour.  It  is  a  cruel  thing  for  any 
of  your  countrymen  to  feel  that,  where 
all  the  rest  love,  he  can  only  admire  ; 
where  all  the  rest  are  idolators,  he  may 
not  bend  the  knee ;  but  stands  apart  and 
beats  upon  his  breast,  observing,  not 
adoring — a  critic.  Yet  to  some  of  us — 
petty  souls,  perhaps,  and  envious— that 
loud  indiscriminating  praise  of  '  Robbie 
Burns'  (for  so  they  style  you  in  their 
Change-house  familiarity)  has  long  been 
ungrateful ;  and,  among  the  treasures  of 
your  songs,  we  venture  to  select  and  even 
to  reject.  So  it  must  be !  We  cannot 
all  love  Haggis,  nor*painch,  tripe,  and 
thairm,'  and  all  those  rural  dainties 
which  you  celebrate  as  '  warm-reekin, 
rich  ! '  '  Rather  too  rich,'  as  the  Young 
Lady  said  on  an  occasion  recorded  by 
Sam  Weller. 


ROBERT  BURNS  197 

Auld  Scotland  wants  nae  skinking  ware 

That  jaups  in  luggies  ; 
But,  if  ye  wish  her  gratefu'  prayer, 

Gie  her  a  Haggis  ! 

You  have  given  her  a  Haggis,  with  a 
vengeance,  and  her  '  gratefu'  prayer '  is 
yours  for  ever.  But  if  even  an  eternity 
of  partridge  may  pall  on  the  epicure,  so 
of  Haggis  too,  as  of  all  earthly  delights, 
Cometh  satiety  at  last.  And  yet  what  a 
glorious  Haggis  it  is — the  more  em- 
phatically rustic  and  even  Fescennine 
part  of  your  verse  !  We  have  had  many 
a  rural  bard  since  Theocritus  *  watched 
the  visionary  flocks,'  but  you  are  the 
only  one  of  them  all  who  has  spoken 
the  sincere  Doric.  Yours  is  the  talk  of 
the  byre  and  the  plough-tail  ;  yours  is 
that  large  utterance  of  the  early  hinds. 
Even  Theocritus  minces  matters,  save 
where  Lacon  and  Comatas  quite  out- 
do the  swains  of  Ayrshire.  '  But  thee, 
Theocritus,  wha  matches  ?  '  you  ask,  and 
yourself  out-match  him  in  this  wide  rude 
region,  trodden  only  by  the  rural  Muse. 
'  lliy  rural  loves  are  nature's  sel'  ; '  and 


198      LETTERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

the  wooer  of  Jean  Armour  speaks  more 
like  a  true  shepherd  than  the  elegant 
Daphnis  of  the  '  Oaristys.' 

Indeed  it  is  with  this  that  moral 
critics  of  your  life  reproach  you,  for- 
getting, perhaps,  that  in  your  amours 
you  were  but  as  other  Scotch  ploughmen 
and  shepherds  of  the  past  and  present. 
Ettrick  may  still,  with  Afghanistan,  offer 
matter  for  idylls,  as  Mr.  Carlyle  (your 
antithesis,  and  the  complement  of  the 
Scotch  character)  supposed  ;  but  the 
morals  of  Ettrick  are  those  of  rural 
Sicily  in  old  days,  or  of  Mossgiel  in  your 
days.  Over  these  matters  the  Kirk, 
with  all  her  power,  and  the  Free  Kirk 
too,  have  had  absolutely  no  influence 
whatever.  To  leave  so  delicate  a  topic, 
you  were  but  as  other  swains,  or,  as 
'  that  Birkie  ca'd  a  lord,'  Lord  Byron  ; 
only  you  combined  (in  certain  of  your 
letters)  a  libertine  theory  with  your 
practice  ;  you  poured  out  in  song  your 
audacious  raptures,  your  half-hearted 
repentance,  your  shame  and  your  scorn. 


ROBERT  BURNS  199 

You  spoke  the  truth  about  rural  Hves 
and  loves.  We  may  like  it  or  dislike  it  ; 
but  we  cannot  deny  the  verity. 

Was  it  not  as  unhappy  a  thing,  Sir, 
for  you,  as  it  was  fortunate  for  Letters 
and  for  Scotland,  that  you  were  born  at 
the  meeting  of  two  ages  and  of  two 
worlds — precisely  in  the  moment  when 
bookish  literature  was  beginning  to  reach 
the  people,  and  when  Society  was  first 
learning  to  admit  the  low-born  to  her 
Minor  Mysteries?  Before  you  how 
many  singers  not  less  truly  poets  than 
yourself — though  less  versatile  not  less 
passionate,  though  less  sensuous  not  less 
simple — had  been  born  and  had  died  in 
poor  men's  cottages  !  There  abides  not 
even  the  shadow  of  a  name  of  the  old 
Scotch  song-smiths,  of  the  old  ballad- 
makers.  The  authors  of  Clerk  Saunders,' 
of  '  The  Wife  of  Usher's  Well,'  of  '  Fair 
Annie,'  and  *  Sir  Patrick  Spens,'  and 
'  The  Bonny  Hind,'  are  as  unknown  to 
us  as  Homer,  whom  in  their  directness 
and  force  they  resemble.     They  never, 


J 


200     LETTERS   TO   DEAD  AUTHORS 

perhaps,  gave  their  poems  to  writing ; 
certainly  they  never  gave  them  to  the 
press.  On  the  lips  and  in  the  hearts  of 
the  people  they  have  their  lives  ;  and 
the  singers,  after  a  life  obscure  and 
untroubled  by  society  or  by  fame,  are 
forgotten.  '  The  Iniquity  of  Oblivion 
blindly  scattereth  his  Poppy.' 

Had  you  been  born  some  years  earlier 
you  would  have  been  even  as  these  un- 
named Immortals,  leaving  great  verses 
to  a  little  clan — verses  retained  only  by 
Memory.  You  would  have  been  but 
the  minstrel  of  your  native  valley  :  the 
wider  world  would  not  have  known  you, 
nor  you  the  world.  Great  thoughts  of 
independence  and  revolt  would  never 
have  burned  in  you  ;  indignation  would 
not  have  vexed  you.  Society  would  not 
have  given  and  denied  her  caresses.  You 
would  have  been  happy.  Your  songs 
would  have  lingered  in  all  '  the  circle  of 
the  summer  hills  ; '  and  your  scorn,  your 
satire,  your  narrative  verse,  would  have 
been   unwritten    or  unknown.     To   the 


ROBERT  BURNS  201 

world  what  a  loss  !  and  what  a  gain  to 
you  !  We  should  have  possessed  but  a 
few  of  your  lyrics,  as 

When  o'er  the  hill  the  eastern  star 
Tells  bughtin-time  is  near,  my  jo  ; 

And  owsen  frae  the  furrowed  field, 
Return  sae  dowf  and  wearie  O  ! 

How  noble  that  is,  how  natural,  how  un- 
consciously Greek  !  You  found,  oddly, 
in  good  Mrs.  Barbauld,  the  merits  of  the 
Tenth  Muse : 

In  thy  sweet  sang,  Barbauld,  survives 
Even  Sappho's  flame  ! 

But  how  unconsciously  you  remind  us 
both  of  Sappho  and  of  Homer  in  these 
strains  about  the  Evening  Star  and  the 
hour  when  the  Day  fisrevicrcreTo  ^ov\v- 
TovSs?  Had  you  lived  and  died  the 
pastoral  poet  of  some  silent  glen,  such 
lyrics  could  not  but  have  survived ;  free, 
too,  of  all  that  in  your  songs  reminds  us 
of  the  Poet's  Corner  in  the '  Kirkcudbright 
Advertiser.'  We  should  not  have  read 
how 

Phoebus,  gilding  the  brow  o'  morning, 
Banishes  ilk  darksome  shade  ! 


202      LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Still  we  might  keep  a  love-poem  un- 
excelled by  Catullus, 

Had  we  never  loved  sae  kindly, 
Had  we  never  loved  sae  blindly, 
Never  met — or  never  parted, 
We  had  ne'er  been  broken-hearted. 

Btrt  the  letters  to  Clarinda  would  have 
been  unwritten,  and  the  thrush  would 
have  been  untaught  in  *the  style  of  the 
Bird  of  Paradise.' 

A  quiet  life  of  song,  fallentis  seimta 
vitcBy  was  not  to  be  yours.  Fate  other- 
wise decreed  it.  The  touch  of  a  lettered 
society,  the  strife  with  the  Kirk,  discon- 
tent with  the  State,  poverty  and  pride, 
neglect  and  success,  were  needed  to 
make  your  Genius  what  it  was,  and  to 
endow  the  world  with  '  Tam  o'  Shanter,' 
the  *  Jolly  Beggars,'  and  '  Holy  Willie's 
Prayer.'  Who  can  praise  them  too  highly 
— who  admire  in  them  too  much  the 
humour,  the  scorn,  the  wisdom,  the 
unsurpassed  energy  and  courage  .''  So 
powerful,  so  commanding,  is  the  move- 
ment   of    that   Beggars'    Chorus,   that, 


ROBERT  BURNS  203 

methinks,  it  unconsciously  echoed  in  the 
brain  of  our  greatest  living  poet  when  he 
conceived  the  '  Vision  of  Sin.'  You  shall 
judge  for  yourself     Recall  : 

Here's  to  budgets,  bags,  and  wallets  ! 

Here's  to  all  the  wandering  train  ! 
Here's  our  ragged  bairns  and  callets  ! 

One  and  all  cry  out.  Amen  ! 

A  fig  for  those  by  law  protected  ! 

Liberty's  a  glorious  feast ! 
Courts  for  cowards  were  erected  ! 

Churches  built  to  please  the  priest ! 

Then  read  this  : 

Drink  to  lofty  hopes  that  cool — 

Visions  of  a  perfect  state  : 
Drink  we,  last,  the  public  fool, 

Frantic  love  and  frantic  hate. 


Drink  to  Fortune,  drink  to  Chance, 

While  we  keep  a  little  breath  ! 
Drink  to  heavy  Ignorance, 

Hob  and  nob  with  brother  Death  ! 

Is  not  the  movement  the  same,  though 
the  modern  speaks  a  wilder  recklessness  ? 
So  in  the  best  company  we  leave  you, 
who  were  the  life  and  soul  of  so  much 
company,  good  and  bad.     No  poet,  since 


204     LETTERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

the  Psalmist  of  Israel,  ever  gave  the 
world  more  assurance  of  a  man  ;  none 
lived  a  life  more  strenuous,  engaged 
in  an  eternal  conflict  of  the  passions, 
and  by  them  overcome — '  mighty  and 
mightily  fallen.'  When  we  think  of  you, 
Byron  seems,  as  Plato  would  have  said, 
remote  by  one  degree  from  actual  truth, 
and  Musset  by  a  degree  more  remote 
than  Byron. 


205 


XX. 

To  Lord  Byron. 

My  Lord, 

(Do  you  remember  how    Leigh 
Hunt 
Enraged  you  once  by  writing  My  dear 
Byron  ?) 
Books  have   their   fates, — as  mortals 
have  who  punt. 
And  yotirs  have  entered  on   an  age  of 
iron. 
Critics  there  be  who  think  your  satire 
blunt. 
Your   pathos,  fudge ;   such  perils  must 

environ 
Poets  who  in  their  time  were  quite  the 

rage. 
Though  now  there's  not  a  soul  to  turn 
their  page. 


2o6     LETTERS    TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

Yes,  there  is  much  dispute  about  your 
worth, 
And  much  is  said  which  you  might 
like  to  know 
By  modern  poets  here  upon  the  earth. 
Where  poets  live,  and  love  each  other 
so  ; 
And,  in    Elysium,  it    may   move   your 
mirth 
To  hear  of  bards  that  pitch  your  praises 
low. 
Though  there  be  some  that  for  your  credit 
stickle, 
As  —Glorious  Mat, — and  not  inglorious 
Nichol. 

(This  kind  of  writing  is  my  pet  aversion, 
I  hate  the  slang,  I  hate  the  personali- 
ties, 
I  loathe  the  aimless,  reckless,  loose  dis- 
persion. 
Of  every  rhyme  that  in  the  singer's 
wallet  is, 
I  hate  it  as  you  hated  the  Excursion^ 
But,  while  no  man  a  hero  to  his  valet  is. 


LORD  BYRON  -    207 

The  hero's  still  the  model  ;  I  indite 
The    kind    of  rhymes    that    Byron    oft 
would  write.) 

There's  a  Swiss    critic  whom  I  cannot 

rhyme  to, 
One  Scherer,  dry  as    sawdust,  grim 

and  prim. 
Of  him  there's  much  to  say,  if  I  had 

time  to 
Concern  myself  in  any  wise  with  him. 
He  seems  to  hate  the  heights  he  cannot 

climb  to, 
He  thinks  your  poetry  a  coxcomb's 

whim, 
A   good    deal   of  his    sawdust   he   has 

spilt  on 
Shakespeare,  and  Moliere,  and  you,  and 

Milton. 

Ay,  much  his   temper  is    like  Vivien's 
mood. 
Which  found  not  Galahad  pure,  nor 
Lancelot  brave ; 
Cold  as  a  hailstorm  on  an  April  wood. 
He  buries  poets  in  an  icy  grave, 


2o8      LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

His  Essays — he  of  the  Genevan  hood ! 
Nothing  so  fine,  but  better  doth  he 

crave. 
So  stupid  and  so  solemn  in  his  spite 
He  dares  to   print   that  Moliere  could 

not  write ! 

Enough  of  these  excursions  ;  I  was  say- 
ing 
That    half    our    English    Bards    are 
turned  Reviewers, 
And  Arnold  was  discussing  and  assaying 
The  weight  and  value  of  that  work  of 
yours, 
Examining  and  testing  it  and  weighing, 
And  proved,  the  gems  are  pure,  the 
gold  endures. 
While  Swinburne  cries  with  an  exceeding 

The  stones  are  paste,  and  half  the  gold, 
alloy. 

In    Byron,   Arnold    finds    the    greatest 
force, 
Poetic,  in  this  later  age  of  ours  ; 


LORD  BYRON  209 

His   song,  a  torrent   from  a   mountain 

source, 
Clear  as  the  crystal,  singing  with  the 

showers. 
Sweeps  to  the  sea  in  unrestricted  course 
Through  banks    o'erhung  with  rocks 

and  sweet  with  flowers  ; 
None   of    your   brooks    that    modestly 

meander, 
But  swift  as    Awe   along  the    Pass  of 

Brander. 

And  when  our  century  has  clomb  its  crest. 
And  backward  gazes  o'er  the  plains  of 
Time, 
And  counts    its  harvest,  yours   is   still 
the  best. 
The  richest  garner  in  the  field  of  rhyme 
(The  metaphoric  mixture,  'tis  confest. 
Is  all  my  own,  and  is  not  quite  sub- 
lime). 
But  fame's  not  yours  alone ;  you  must 

divide  all 
The  plums  and  pudding  with  the  Bard 
of  Rydal ! 

P 


2IO     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Wordsworth  and  Byron,  these  the 
lordly  names 
And  these  the  gods  to  whom   most 
incense  burns. 
'  Absurd  ! '  cries  Swinburne,  and  in  anger 
flames. 
And  in  an  ^schylean  fury  spurns 
With  impious  foot  your  altar,  and  ex- 
claims 
And  wreathes  his  laurels  on  the  golden 
urns 
Where  Coleridge's  and  Shelley's  ashes 

lie, 
Deaf  to  the  din  and  heedless  of  the  cry. 

For    Byron     (Swinburne     shouts)     has 
never  woven 
One  honest  thread  of  life  within  his 
song; 
As  Offenbach  is  to  divine  Beethoven 
So    Byron    is    to    Shelley    {This    is 
strong !), 
And  on  Parnassus'  peak,  divinely  cloven. 
He  may  not  stand,  or  stands  by  cruel 
wrong ; 


LORD  BYRON  211 

For    Byron's   rank    (the   examiner   has 

reckoned) 
Is  in  the  third  class  or  a  feeble  second. 

'  A  Bernesque  poet '  at  the  very  most, 
And  "'  never  earnest  save  in  politics,' 

The  Pegasus  that  he  was  wont  to  boast 
A    blundering,    floundering   hackney, 
full  of  tricks, 

A  beast  that  must  be  driven  to  the  post 
By  whips  and  spurs  and   oaths   and 
kicks  and  sticks, 

A  gasping,  ranting,  broken-winded  brute. 

That  any  judge  of  Pegasi  would  shoot ; 

In  sooth,  a  half-bred  Pegasus,  and  far 
gone 
In  spavin,  curb,  and  half  a  hundred 
woes. 
And  Byron's  style  is  *  jolter-headed  jar- 
gon ; ' 
His  verse  is  '  only  bearable  in  prose.' 
So  living  poets  write  of  those  that  are 
gone. 
And  o'er  the  Eagle  thus  the  Bantam 
crows  ; 


212     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

And  Swinburne   ends  where  Verisopht 

began, 
By  owning  you  *  a  very  clever  man.' 

Or  rather  does  not  end  :  he  still  must 
utter 
A  quantity  of  the  unkindest  things. 
Ah !   were   you   here,    I    marvel,  would 
you  flutter 
O'er  such  a  foe  the  tempest  of  your 
wings  ? 
'Tis  '  rant  and  cant  and  glare  and  splash 
and  splutter ' 
That  rend  the  modest  air  when  Byron 
sings. 
There  Swinburne  stops  :  a  critic  rather 

fiery. 
A^iimis  ccelestibus  tantcene  ires? 

But  whether  he  or  Arnold  in  the  right 
is, 
Long   is   the   argument,   the   quarrel 
long; 
Non  nobis  est  to  settle  tantas  lites  ; 
No  poet  I,  to  judge  of  right  or  wrong  : 


LORD  BYRON  213 

But  of  all  things  I  always  think  a  fight 

is 
The  most  unpleasant  in  the  lists  of 

song; 
When    Marsyas     of    old    was    flayed, 

Apollo 
Set   an    example   which   we    need    not 

follow. 

The  fashion  changes  !     Maidens  do  not 

wear, 
As  once  they  wore,  in  necklaces  and 

lockets 
A    curl    ambrosial    of     Lord    Byron's 

hair  ; 
'  Don    Juan '    is    not    always    in    our 

pockets — 
Nay,  a  New   Writer's    readers    do    not 

care 
Much  for  your  verse,  but  are  inclined 

to  mock  its 
Manners   and    morals.     Ay,  and    most 

young  ladies 
To  yours  prefer  the   '  Epic '  called   '  of 

Hades ' ! 


214     LETTERS    TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

I  do  not  blame  them  ;  I'm  inclined  to 

think 
That  with  the  reigning  taste  'tis  vain 

to  quarrel, 
And  Burns  might  teach  his  votaries  to 

drink, 
And  Byron  never  meant  to  make  them 

moral. 
You  yet  have  lovers  true,  who  will  not 

shrink 
From  lauding  you  and  giving  you  the 

laurel ; 
The  Germans  too,  those  men  of  blood 

and  iron, 
Of    all    our    poets    chiefly    swear    by 

Byron. 

Farewell,   thou    Titan    fairer   than    the 
Gods! 
Farewell,    farewell,    thou    swift    and 
lovely  spirit. 
Thou  splendid  warrior  with   the  world 
at  odds, 
Unpraised,  unpraisable,   beyond   thy 
merit ; 


LORD  BYRON  215 

Chased,  like  Orestes,  by  the  Furies'  rods, 
Like  him  at  length  thy  peace  dost 
thou  inherit ; 

Beholding  whom,  men  think  how  fairer 
far 

Than  all  the  steadfast  stars  the  wander- 
ing star !  ^ 

^  Mr.  Swinburne's  and  Mr.  Arnold's  diverse 
views  of  Byron  will  be  found  in  the  Selections  by 
Mr.  Arnold  and  in  the  Nineteenth  Century. 


2i6     LETTERS    TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 


XXL 

To  Omar  Khayyam. 

Wise   Omar,  do  the  Southern  Breezes 

fling 
Above   your   Grave,  at    ending   of  the 

Spring, 
The  Snowdrift  of  the  Petals  of  the 

Rose, 
The  wild  white  Roses  you  were  wont  to 

sing  ? 

Far  in  the  South  I  know  a  Land  divine,' 

And  there  is  many  a  Saint  and  many  a 

Shrine, 

And  over  all  the  Shrines  the  Blossom 

blows 

Of  Roses  that  were  dear  to  you  as  Wine. 

'  The  hills  above  San  Remo,  where  rose-bushes 
are  planted  by  the  shrines.  Omar  desired  that  his 
grave  might  be  where  the  wind  would  scatter  rose- 
leaves  over  it. 


OMAR   KHAYYAM  217 

You  were  a  Saint  of  unbelieving  Days, 
Liking  your  Life  and  happy  in  Men's 

Praise  ; 
Enough  for   you  the  Shade  beneath 

the  Bough, 
Enough  to  watch  the  wild  World  go  its 

Ways. 

Dreadless  and  hopeless  thou  of  Heaven 

or  Hell, 
Careless  of  Words  thou  hadst  not  Skill 

to  spell, 
Content  to  know  not  all  thou  knowest 

now. 
What's  Death  ?  Doth  any  Pitcher  dread 

the  Well? 

The  Pitchers  we,  whose  Maker  makes 

them  ill, 
Shall  He  torment  them  if  they  chance 

to  spill  ? 
Nay,  like    the  broken  Potsherds  are 

we  cast 
Forth  and  forgotten, — and  what  will  be 

will ! 


21 8     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS- 

So    Still   were   we,   before   the    Months 

began 
That  rounded  us  and    shaped    us    into 

Man. 
So  still  we  shall  be,  surely,  at  the  last, 
Dreamless,  untouched  of  Blessing  or  of 

Ban! 

Ah,  strange  it  seems  that  this  thy  com- 
mon Thought — 

How  all  Things  have  been,  ay,  and  shall 
be  nought — 
Was  ancient  Wisdom  in  thine  ancient 
East, 

In  those  old  Days  when  Senlac  Fight 
was  fought. 

Which  gave  our  England  for  a  captive 

Land 
To  pious  Chiefs  of  a  believing  Band, 

A  gift  to  the  Believer  from  the  Priest, 
Tossed  from  the  holy  to  the  blood-red 

Hand  ! ' 

*  Omar   was  contemporary    with    the   battle    of 
Hastings. 


OMAR   KHAYYAM  219 

Yea,  thou  wert  singing  when  that  Arrow 

clave 
Through  Helm  and  Brain  of  him  who 

could  not  save 
His  England,  even  of  Harold  Godwin's 

son ; 
The  high  Tide  murmurs  by  the  Hero's 

Grave  !  ^ 

And  thou  wert  wreathing  Roses — who 

can  tell  ? — 
Or  chanting  for  some  Girl  that  pleased 

thee  well, 
Or  satst  at  Wine  in  Nashapur,  when 

dun 
The    twilight    veiled    the    Field    where 

Harold  fell ! 

The  salt  Sea-waves  above  him  rage  and 

roam  ! 
Along  the  white  Walls  of  his  guarded 

Home 
No  Zephyr  stirs  the   Rose,  but  o'er 

the  Wave 

•  Per  mandata  Ducis,  Rex  hie,  Heralde,  quiescis, 
Ut  cusios  tnaneas  Hit  oris  et  pelagi. 


220     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

The  wild  Wind  beats  the  Breakers  into 
Foam  ! 

And  dear  to  him,  as  Roses  were  to  thee, 
Rings    the  long  Roar  of  Onset  of  the 

Sea  ; 
The  Swan's  Path  of  his  Fathers  is  his 

Grave : 
His  Sleep,  methinks,  is  sound  as  thine 

can  be. 

His  was  the  Age  of  Faith,  when  all  the 

West 
Looked  to  the  Priest  for  Torment  or  for 

Rest; 
And  thou  wert  living  then,  and  didst 

not  heed 
The  Saint  who  banned  thee  or  the  Saint 

who  blessed  ! 

Ages  of  Progress  !    These  eight  hundred 
Years 

Hath  Europe  shuddered  with  her  Hopes 
or  Fears, 
And  now  ! — she  listens  in  the  Wilder- 
ness 


OMAR  KHAYYAM  221 

To   thee,  and   half  belieyeth  what   she 
hears  ! 

Hadst  thou  THE  SECRET  ?  Ah,  and  who 

may  tell  ? 
'An  Hour  we  have,'  thou  saidst ;  'Ah, 

waste  it  well  ! ' 
An  Hour  we  have,  and  yet  Eternity 
Looms    o'er   us,   and    the    Thought    of 

Heaven  or  Hell  ! 

Nay,  we  can  never  be  as  wise  as  thou, 
O    idle    Singer   'neath    the    blossomed 
Bough. 
Nay,  and  we  cannot  be  content  to  die. 
We  cannot  shirk  the  Questions  'Where  t ' 
and  '  How  } ' 

Ah,  not  from    learned    Peace  and  gay 

Content 
Shall    we  of  England  go   the   way  he 

went — 
The  Singer  of  the  Red  Wine  and  the 

Rose — 
Nay,   otherwise    than    his   our    Day    is 

spent ! 


222     LETTERS    TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

Serene  he  dwelt  in  fragrant  Nashapur, 
But   we  must  wander  while   the   Stars 

endure. 
He  knew  the  Secret  :  we  have  none 

that  knows, 
No  Man  so  sure  as  Omar  once  was  sure  ! 


223 


XXII. 

To  Q.  Horatius  Flaccus. 

In  what  manner  of  Paradise  are  we  to 
conceive  that  you,  Horace,  are  dwelling, 
or  what  region  of  immortality  can  give 
you  such  pleasures  as  this  life  afforded  ? 
The  country  and  the  town,  nature  and 
men,  who  knew  them  so  well  as  you,  or 
who  ever  so  wisely  made  the  best  of 
those  two  worlds  ?  Truly  here  you  had 
good  things,  nor  do  you  ever,  in  all  your 
poems,  look  for  more  delight  in  the  life 
beyond  ;  you  never  expect  consolation 
for  present  sorrow,  and  when  you  once 
have  shaken  hands  with  a  friend  the  part- 
ing seems  to  you  eternal. 

Quis  desiderio  sit  pudor  aut  modus 
Tarn  cari  capitis  ? 

So  you  sing,  for  the  dear  head  you 
mourn  has  sunk,  for  ever,  beneath  the 


224     LETTERS   TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

wave.  Virgil  might  wander  forth  bearing 
the  golden  branch  *  the  Sibyl  doth  to  sing- 
ing men  allow/  and  might  visit,  as  one 
not  wholly  without  hope,  the  dim  dwell- 
ings of  the  dead  and  the  unborn.  To 
him  was  it  permitted   to  see  and  sing 

*  mothers  and  men,  and  the  bodies  out- 
worn of  mighty  heroes,  boys  and  un- 
wedded  maids,  and  young  men  borne  to 
the  funeral  fire  before  their  parents'  eyes.' 
The  endless  caravan  swept  past  him  — 

*  many  as  fluttering  leaves  that  drop  and 
fall  in  autumn  woods  when  the  first  frost 
begins  ;  many  as  birds  that  flock  land- 
ward from  the  great  sea  when  now  the 
chill  year  drives  them  o'er  the  deep 
and  leads  them  to  sunnier  lands.'  Such 
things  was  it  given  to  the  sacred  poet  to 
behold,  and  *  the  happy  seats  and  sweet 
pleasances  of  fortunate  souls,  where  the 
larger  light  clothes  all  the  plains  and 
dips  them  in  a  rosier  gleam,  plains  with 
their  own  new  sun  and  stars  before  un- 
known.' Ah,  not  fi'ustra  plus  was  Virgil, 
as  you  say,  Horace,  in  your  melancholy 


Q.   HORATIUS  FLA  ecus  225 

song.  In  him,  we  fancy,  there  was  a 
happier  mood  than  your  melancholy 
patience.  '  Not,  though  thou  wert  sweeter 
of  song  than  Thracian  Orpheus,  with 
that  lyre  whose  lay  led  the  dancing 
trees,  not  so  would  the  blood  return  to 
the  empty  shade  of  him  whom  once 
with  dread  wand,  the  inexorable  God 
hath  folded  with  his  shadowy  flocks  ;  but 
patience  lighteneth  what  heaven  forbids 
us  to  undo.' 

Durum,  sed  levius  Jit patlential 

It  was  all  your  philosophy  in  that  last 
sad  resort  to  which  we  are  pushed  so 
often — 

'  With  close-lipped  Patience  for  our  only  friend, 
Sad  Patience,  too  near  neighbour  of  Despair.* 

The  Epicurean  is  at  one  with  the 
Stoic  at  last,  and  Horace  with  Marcus 
Aurelius.  '  To  go  away  from  among 
men,  if  there  are  Gods,  is  not  a  thing  to 
be  afraid  of;  but  if  indeed  they  do  not 
exist,  or  if  they  have  no  concern  about 
human  affairs,  what  is  it  to  me  to  live 

Q 


226      LETTERS    TO  DEAD   AUTHORS 

in  a  universe  devoid  of  gods  or  devoid 
of  providence  ? ' 

An  excellent  philosophy,  but  easier 
to  those  for  whom  no  Hope  had  dawned 
or  seemed  to  set.  Yes  !  it  is  harder  than 
common,  Horace,  for  us  to  think  o{ yoti, 
still  glad  somewhere,  among  rivers  like 
Liris  and  plains  and  vine-clad  hills,  that 

Solemque  suum,  sua  sidera  norunt. 

It  is  hard,  for  you  looked  for  no  such 
thing. 

Omnes  una  viauet  nox 
Et  calcanda  semel  via  leti. 

You  could  not  tell  Maecenas  that  you 
would  meet  him  again  ;  you  could  only 
promise  to  tread  the  dark  path  with 
him. 

Ibimus^  ibimuSj 
Utcunque  prcecedes^  supremum 
Carper^er  co  mites  par  at  i. 

Enough,  Horace,  of  these  mortuary 
musings.  You  loved  the  lesson  of  the 
roses,  and  now  and  again  would  speak 
somewhat  like  a  death's  head  over  your 
temperate  cups  of  Sabine  ordinaire.  Your 


Q.    HOR Alius  FLACCUS  227 

melancholy  moral  was  but  meant  to 
heighten  the  joy  of  your  pleasant  life, 
when  wearied  Italy,  after  all  her  wars 
and  civic  bloodshed,  had  won  a  peaceful 
haven.  The  harbour  might  be  trea- 
cherous ;  the  prince  might  turn  to  the 
tyrant  ;  far  away  on  the  wide  Roman 
marches  might  be  heard,  as  it  were,  the 
endless,  ceaseless  monotone  of  beating 
horses'  hoofs  and  marching  feet  of  men. 
They  were  coming,  they  were  nearing, 
like  footsteps  heard  on  wool ;  there  was 
a  sound  of  multitudes  and  millions  of 
barbarians,  all  the  North,  officina  gentium, 
mustering  and  marshalling  her  peoples. 
But  their  coming  was  not  to  be  to-da}', 
nor  to-morrow,  nor  to-day  was  the 
budding  Empire  to  blossom  into  the 
blood-red  flower  of  Nero.  In  the  lull 
between  the  two  tempests  of  Republic 
and  Empire  your  odes  sound  *  like  lin- 
nets in  the  pauses  of  the  wind.' 

What  joy  there  is  in  these  songs  ! 
what  delight  of  life,  what  an  exquisite 
Hellenic   grace   of  art,   what  a   manly 


228     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

nature  to  endure,  what  tenderness  and 
constancy  of  friendship,  what  a  sense  of 
all  that  is  fair  in  the  glittering  stream, 
the  music  of  the  waterfall,  the  hum  of 
bees,  the  silvery  grey  of  the  olive  woods 
on  the  hillside  !  How  human  are  all 
your  verses,  Horace  !  what  a  pleasure  is 
yours  in  the  straining  poplars,  swaying 
in  the  wind !  what  gladness  you  gain 
from  the  white  crest  of  Soracte,  beheld 
through  the  fluttering  snowflakes  while 
the  logs  are  being  piled  higher  on  the 
hearth.  You  sing  of  women  and  wine 
—  not  all  whole-hearted  in  your  praise  of 
them,  perhaps,  for  passion  frightens  you, 
and  'tis  pleasure  more  than  love  that 
you  commend  to  the  young.  Lydia 
and  Glycera,  and  the  others,  are  but 
passing  guests  of  a  heart  at  ease  in  it- 
self, and  happy  enough  when^their  facile 
reign  is  ended.  You  seem  to  me  like  a 
man  who  welcomes  middle  age,  and  is 
more  glad  than  Sophocles  was  to  '  flee 
from  these  hard  masters '  the  passions. 
In  the  fallow  leisure  of  life  you  glance 


Q.    HORATIUS  FLACCUS  229 

round  contented,  and  find  all  very  good 
save  the  need  to  leave  all  behind.  Even 
that. you  take  with  an  Italian  good- 
humour,  as  the  folk  of  your  sunny  coun- 
try bear  poverty  and  hunger. 

Durum^  sed  levins  fit  patientia  ! 

To  them,  to  you,  the  loveliness  of 
your  land  is,  and  was,  a  thing  to  live 
for.  None  of  the  Latin  poets  your 
fellows,  or  none  but  Virgil,  seem  to  me 
to  have  known  so  well  as  you,  Horace, 
how  happy  and  fortunate  a  thing  it  was 
to  be  born  in  Italy.  You  do  not  say  so, 
like  your  Virgil,  in  one  splendid  passage, 
numbering  the  glories  of  the  land  as  a 
lover  might  count  the  perfections  of  his 
mistress.  But  the  sentiment  is  ever  in 
your  heart  and  often  on  your  lips. 

Me  nee  tarn  patiens  Lacedsemon, 
Nee  tarn  Larissse  pereussit  campus  opimae, 

Quam  domus  Albunese  resonantis 
Et  praeeeps  Anio,  ac  Tiburni  lueus,  et  uda 

Mobilibus  pomaria  rivis. ' 

'  '  Me  neither  resolute  Sparta  nor  the  rich  La- 
risssean  plain   so  enraptures   as  the  fane  of  echoing 


230     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

So  a  poet  should  speak,  and  to  every 
singer  his  own  land  should  be  dearest. 
Beautiful  is  Italy  with  the  grave  and 
delicate  outlines  of  her  sacred  hills,  her 
dark  groves,  her  little  cities  perched  like 
eyries  on  the  crags,  her  rivers  gliding 
under  ancient  walls  ;  beautiful  is  Italy, 
her  seas,  and  her  suns  :  but  dearer  to  me 
tlie  long  grey  wave  that  bites  the  rock 
below  the  minster  in  the  north  ;  dearer 
are  the  barren  moor  and  black  peat-water 
swirling  in  tauny  foam,  and  the  scent  of 
bog  myrtle  and  the  bloom  of  heather, 
and,  watching  over  the  lochs,  the  green 
round-shouldered  hills. 

In  affection  for  your  native  land, 
Horace,  certainly  the  pride  in  great 
Romans  dead  and  gone  made  part,  and 
you  were,  in  all  senses,  a  lover  of  your 
country,  your  country's  heroes,  your 
country's  gods.  None  but  a  patriot 
could  have  sung  that  ode  on  Regulus, 
who  died,  as  our  own  hero  died  on  an 

Albunea,  the  headlong  Anio,  the  grove  of  Tibur,  th 
orchards  watered  by  the  wandering  rills,' 


Q.    HO  RATI  US  FLA  ecus  231 

evil  day,  for  the   honour   of  Rome,  as 
Gordon  for  the  honour  of  England. 

Fertur  pudicse  conjugis  osculum, 
Parvosque  natos,  ut  capitis  minor, 
Ab  se  removisse,  et  virilem 
Torvus  humi  posuisse  voltum  : 

Donee  labantes  consilio  patres 
Firmaret  auctor  nunquam  alias  dato, 
Interque  maerentes  amicos 
Egregius  properaret  exul. 

Atqui  sciebat,  quae  sibi  barbarus 
Tortor  pararet  :  non  aliter  tamen 
Dimovit  obstantes  propinquos, 
Et  populum  reditus  morantem, 

Quam  si  clientum  longa  negotia 
Dijudicata  lite  relinqueret, 
Tendens  Venafranos  in  agros 
Aut  Lacedaemonium  Tarentum.' 


'  '  They  say  he  put  aside  from  him  the  pure  lips  of 
his  wife  and  his  little  children,  like  a  man  unfree,  and 
with  his  brave  face  bowed  earthward  sternly  he  waited 
till  with  such  counsel  as  never  mortal  gave  he  might 
strengthen  the  hearts  of  the  Fathers,  and  through  his 
mourning  friends  go  forth,  a  hero,  into  exile.  Yet 
well  he  knew  what  things  were  being  prepared  for 
him  at  the  hands  of  the  tormentors,  who,  none  the  less, 
put  aside  the  kinsmen  that  barred  his  path  and  the 


232     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

We  talk  of  the  Greeks  as  your 
teachers.  Your  teachers  they  were,  but 
that  poem  could  only  have  been  written 
by  a  Roman  !  The  strength,  the  tender- 
ness, the  noble  and  monumental  resolu- 
tion and  resignation — these  are  the  gifts 
of  the  lords  of  human  things,  the  masters 
of  the  world. 

Your  country's  heroes  are  dear  to 
you,  Horace,  but  you  did  not  sing  them 
better  than  your  country's  Gods,  the 
pious  protecting  spirits  of  the  hearth, 
the  farm,  the  field;  kindly  ghosts,  it 
may  be,  of  Latin  fathers  dead  or  Gods 
framed  in  the  image  of  these.  What 
you  actually  believed  we  know  not,  you 
knew  not.  Who  knows  what  he  believes  } 
Parens  Deorum  cultor  you  bowed  not 
often,  it  may  be,  in  the  temples  of  the 
state  religion  and  before  the  statues 
of  the  great  Olympians  ;  but  the  pure 


people  that  would  fain  have  delayed  his  return,  passing 
through  their  midst  as  he  might  have  done  if,  his  re- 
tainers' weary  business  ended  and  the  suits  adjudged, 
he  were  faring  to  his  Venafran  lands  or  to  Durian 
Tarentum.' 


Q.   HORATIUS  FLACCUS  233 

and  pious  worship  of  rustic  tradition, 
the  faith  handed  down  by  the  homely 
elders,  with  that  you  never  broke.  Clean 
hands  and  a  pure  heart,  these,  with  a 
sacred  cake  and  shining  grains  of  salt, 
you  could  offer  to  the  Lares.  It  was 
a  benignant  religion,  uniting  old  times 
and  new,  men  living  and  men  long  dead 
and  gone,  in  a  kind  of  service  and  sacri- 
fice solemn  yet  familiar. 

Te  nihil  attinet  K^    "^^t^  2.  9i 


Tentare  multa  ccede  bidentiuvi    \       -ttt-    j.3 
Parvos  coronantem  marino         ^ — - — 
Rore  deos  fragilique  77iyrto. 

Immunis  aram  si  tetigit  manus^ 
Non  sumptuosa  blandior  hostia 
Mollivit  aversos  Penates 
Farre  pio  et  saliente  mica.  • 


'  '  Thou,  Phidyle,  hast  no  need  to  besiege  the  gods 
with  slaughter  so  great  of  sheep,  thou  who  crownest 
thy  tiny  deities  with  myrtle  rare  and  rosemary.  If 
but  the  hand  be  clean  that  touches  the  altar,  then 
richest  sacrifice  will  not  more  appease  the  angered 
Penates  than  the  duteous  cake  and  salt  that  crackles 
in  the  blaze.' 

R 


234     LETTERS   TO  DEAD  AUTHORS 

Farewell,  dear  Horace  ;  farewell,  thou 
wise  and  kindly  heathen  ;  of  mortals  the 
most  human,  the  friend  of  my  friends 
and  of  so  many  generations  of  men. 

Ave  atque    Vale  ! 


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